Marranos on the Moradas: Secret Jews and Penitentes in the Southwestern United States from 1590–1980

Marranos on the Moradas: Secret Jews and Penitentes in the Southwestern United States from 1590–1980

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Norman Simms

Series: Judaism and Jewish Life
ISBN: 9781934843321 (hardcover) 
Pages: 520 pp.
Publication Date: January 2009

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Two groups were persecuted over the course of four hundred years in what is now the southwestern United States, each dissimulating and disguising who they truly were. Both now declare their true identities, yet raise hostility. The Penitentes are a lay Catholic brotherhood that practices bloody rites of self-flagellation and crucifixion, but claim this is a misrepresentation and that they are a community and a charitable organization. Marranos, an ambiguous and complicated population of Sephardic descendants, claim to be anousim. Both peoples have a complex, shared history. This book disentangles the web, redefines the terms, and creates new contexts in which these groups are viewed with respect and sympathy. Simms uses rabbinics, literary analyses, psychohistory, and cultural anthropology to consolidate a history of mentalities. 


Norman Simms (PhD Washington University) is associate professor in the department of humanities and English at the University of Waikato in Hamilton, New Zealand. He is the author of Festivals of Laughter: Blood and Justice in Biblical and Classical Literature (2007), Marranos on the Moradas: Secret Jews and Penitentes in the Southwestern United States from 15901890 (2009),  Alfred Dreyfus: Man, Milieu, Mentality, and Midrash (2011), and In the Context of His Times: Alfred Dreyfus as Lover, Intellectual, Poet, and Jew (2013).


Drawing on rabbinic sources (Midrash) and psychohistory, Simms sheds light on the ambiguous identity of these misunderstood groups of former Jews and the broader issue of the myriad ways Jews respond to living in a non-Jewish world.
— Book News, Inc., Portland, OR
This lengthy and ambitious study defies easy categorization; it is part detective story, part psychohistory, part Jewish studies, part investigation of secrecy and esoteric currents, and part many other things. Yet its purpose is always clear: to explicate the complex, confused , and confusing inner spiritual life of those whom Simms terms ‘fuzzy Jews’—the New Christians, Crypto-Jews, and Marranos originally from the Iberian Peninsula but transplanted to Mexico and southwest America. . . . The book is extremely valuable, in that it exhibits very clearly the extreme difficulty of studying the history of mentalities and the need for attention to a multitude of disparate academic fields that generally discourages such academic endeavors. This book is recommended to all interested in Jewish history, Jewish-Christian relations, and religious fraternities and secret societies.
— Carole M. Cusack, University of Sydney, in the Journal of Religious History (Vol. 35, No. 2, June 2011)

Table of Contents
 

INTRODUCTION
The Theoretical Problem of the Penitentes
The Problem Slowly Expands
Outline of this Book
More Theoretical and Methodological Problems
Incidentalism
A New Approach
New Distinctions: Marranos, Crypto-Jews and Pseudo-Jews
New Contexts
The Artistic/Aesthetic View
The Rhetorical/Dramatic View
The Psychological View/Psychohistory
Post-Post-Modernism: Microhistory
Post-Colonialism
Feminist and Gay Studies
Chapter I. WHAT DID THE PENITENTES REALLY DO?
Medieval Flagellants
Third Order of Franciscans
Aztec, Mexican, Pueblo, Shamanistic Rites and Secret Societies
among Native Americans
A Further Speculation: or, A Shot in the Dark
Ghosts, Demons and Marranos
Marranism as a Way of Doubt
Four New Questions
Chapter II. MARRANOS, PENITENTES,
AND THE BAROQUE ANAMORPHOSES IN ACTION
The Fourth Influence: Marranos and Crypto-Jews
Marrano Testimonies
A New Overview of Penitentes and Marranos in the New World
The Problem of Marrano Tradition and Experience
Simulation and Dissimulation in Europe during the Period of the Baroque
Chapter III. THE MACHINERY OF SECRETS AND THE MACHINATIONS OF SILENCE: CONSPIRACIES, CONTRAPTIONS AND LUDIBRIA
Spaceless Space and Timeless Time
New Models of Behavior and Social Deception
Familiares, Malsines and Polillios
The Alternative Counter-Contraptions of the Ramban, a new Kabbalah
and the so-called Grandees of French Jewry
Una Fiesta de Sangre
Confusion and Discombobulation
Passion’s Ludibrium Midrashed
Machines, Apparatus and Contraptions: Instruction, Construction and Destruction
Ludibrium: a machine to see and feel insults
Bricolage, Jonglerie and other Gadgets
Tikkun ha-olam, ha-nefesh, ha-goof, ha-shem
The Contraption that Failed
Chapter IV. CROSSCURRENTS AND UNDERCURRENTS
Section 1. The Half-Way Markers
Penitentes, Thaipusam, and the Fillipino Crucifiers: Ecstasy, Agony and Their
Social and Psychological Significance as Festivals of Blood and Pain
Thaipusam
Filipino Flagellants and Self-Crucifiers
Penitentes of the Southwestern United States
Enargeia versus energeia
Religions of the Father and of the Son
The Argument thus Far
Section 2. A Survey of Fuzzy Jews in Colonial America
Concealing, Preserving and Reshaping
Wachtel’s Sensitive Study of Souvenirs
Zeugma and the Marrano Complex
Crypto-Jews and Marranos in Portuguese America
From Toleration to Expulsion in the French Zones
Jews in Dutch America
“Brokers of the World” in a Broken and Baroque World
Chapter V. PENITENTES AND THE CRAZY THINGS THEY DO: OR, HOW TO BE JEWISH AND CHRISTIAN AT THE SAME TIME
Two Ways of Being Jewish in a Non-Jewish World
Rambam vs Ramban: Who Won the Debates?
The Apparent and the Concealed
The Sacred and the Secret
What Happened to Yemen
The Metamorphosis of Old Sepharad
A Heritage of Guilt
The Mean Son’s Question
Chapter VI. FESTIVALS OF BLOOD HERE AND BLOODY TRIALS THERE: PLAYING ROLES AND ROLLING ALONG
A Rhetoric of Blood
Multiple Personalities, Careers and Strategies of Dissimulation
Penitence and Piety
Making History out of Midrash
Historicity, Hysteria and Histrionics
Dormant Memories and Midrashim
Chapter VII. REACHING TOWARDS A CONCLUSION AND SOME NEW QUESTIONS
In Search of the Bizarre and the Uncanny
The World Beneath the Surface of the World
Delusion, Child’s Play, or Enargeia
Troubled Children of the New World
Delusions in the New World
Children’s Games and Delusions
Children among the Marranos: A Psycho-historical Problem
Incomplete Mourning and Unresolved Grief: Marranos and Crypto-Jews  in Exile on the Moradas
The Clinical Problem
New Synthetic Approach Needed
Components of the New Approach
The Midrashing Machine
Chapter VIII. EPILOGUE
Meditations and Speculations
Midrash or Mishmosh?
Habits of Mind
Paradigms for Jews in a Non-Jewish World
Midrashing the Midrash
Mythos

Bibliography
Index