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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

On Sephardic Jews

This post will come as a surprise to some and a shock to others. Then again, maybe some of you may not be surprised at all.

As you know Tony and I have been researching the Vargas/Obregon families for almost 42 years. We have not given up even when all seemed impossible and we couldn't move on.

We asked questions of our elders, even video-taped their interviews, but never got answers to many of the questions we asked. In many cases there were not any answers, because there was no knowledge.

Herein lies a warning. Those of you of the younger generation - take heed. Don't ever stop talking about your ancestors! They are who make you who/what you are! I remember Mom (Hilaria Obregon Vargas) telling me that her parents never spoke of their ancestors. She said they never even mentioned their names. Please, after all it has taken to find the answers to our questions, don't be a party to this. The memories of our ancestors must be preserved. There is good reason behind this.

First of all, a professor I had in college used to say, "You'll never know where you're going if you don't know where you came from." [Poor English, I know, but it's the sentiment I'm referring to.] Secondly, we must always know about any health concerns in the family - we are our genetic makeup! And thirdly, everyone needs to be able to identify themselves with their family, to be connected.

In the past year Tony and I have spent a great deal of time researching the Duran/Vargas line, which is his paternal line. Probably the most significant blessing of our research was discovering all that Ramon (his father) had told us about his family was true - every word. Interestingly Dad received all this information from his mother (Julia) because his father died when he was so small. Julia kept the memory of the Vargas/Duran line alive by talking to Dad about them. Yay for her!

As we began to read the ancient parish records of Chihuahua, Mexico we began to become acquainted with Tony's ancestors. This was no small task as the records are in such poor condition that reading them was nearly impossible at times. We were constantly making penmanship comparisons of the records of all the people whose names were recorded on a single page with Tony's ancestors just to define one word, and the spelling thereof. Each priest or his clerk wrote differently, so the task changed from page to page.

I was finding the research really tedious last summer and happened to mention it to Miguel (our son). He then was speaking to a co-worker who is from Spain about his family's surnames, and he happened to ask what was his family's surnames. Miguel told him, "Vargas and Duran". To which his co-worker replied, "Those aren't Spanish surnames, they are Sephardic Jews". When Miguel told me this, I laughed. Never in all our time researching had we ever heard such a thing. But then when I got into the early 1700's in our research in Chihuahua our family history took a sudden turn - to the North and then to the East.

I discovered Tony's father's family came from Spain alright, but not in the 1800's as we had always presumed. Oh no - not at all. It turns out that these families came to Nueva Espana in 1492 to escape the Inquisition - when all the Jews were expelled from Spain by edict of Queen Isabela and King Ferdinand. In fact, I found many of Tony's ancestors were married as early as 1545 in Santa Fe, New Mexico!!

Another interesting thing I discovered was that the Sandoval and Gurule families of Lloyd Sandoval (whose own mother was a Gurule) were right there along with the Bargas/Duran families in New Mexico and Northern Mexico during this period of time. So the Sandoval/Gurule cousins need to realize they have been marrying into the Bargas/Duran families for centuries!

We were shocked! The next step for Tony is to have his DNA discovered and checked it against the Sephardic Jewish DNA tables of those in New Mexico who have already found out who they are. Yes, there is DNA proof that these families of New Mexico and Northern Chihuahua, Mexico are Sephardic Jews!

There is a great deal of history written and shared online and in books about the Sephardic Jews of New Mexico and Northern Mexico, so I don't need to repeat that history here. Suffice it to say we have made great strides in the discovery of Tony's family history that are remarkable. In fact, one little tidbit for you here is that his seventh great-grandfather, Tomas Manuel Duran fought in the Revolutionary War! That's right! Mexico fought along side of the Americans in the Revolutionary War. Now I know YOU didn't know that! There are actually records of the Mexican soldiers who fought in that war. Not only did Tomas Manuel Duran fight in the war, but he was also a wounded, disabled and decorated veteran of the Revolutionary War! Is that not amazing?

I will not go on, but I just had to let you know, those of you who still come to this page will now have some very interesting conversations among yourselves after reading this. And as more is gleaned I will let you know about it.

Till then - Shalom!

5 comments:

Elisheva (Irma) said...

I am very interested in asking some questions about the Pinos Altos area in Chihuahua and the Jews that settled there. Would you be so kind as to write to my email address at ayekahpres@gmail.com

I am gathering info about my family.

Surnames are Prado and Hernandez
Any help would be appreciated
Thank You

Allan Vargas said...

Hi, I happen to come across your blog, and would like to congratulate you for keeping the light burning. My mother is Flores, and my father is Vargas both from Philippines. Unfortunately I did not grew up with them to have the chance to dig my roots but in later years when I was grown up, and had the chance to talk to my dad, he often mention that his father, my grandad who is called Ramon Vargas rooted from Spain/Mexico. Philippines is of course discovered by Portuguese/Spanish so I am not surprise. I was brought up in a Roman catholic environment but I went out in search of my soul, and seven years ago I finally found my home in Jewish orthodoxy. It's great to be home at last. All the best, Allan Vargas

Clara Vargas Leitão said...

Hi, I am very happy to find more about Vargas. My mom side is Viana Vargas and we are from Brasil, Minas Gerais. I would like to discover more about my roots and this was a great help!

Dano Vargas said...

I would love to collaborate with you on your research. Amazing article. I am researching my Vargas side. I have actually found a cousin doing the same research. Our grandfathers were brothers in 1824. Juan Luis Vargas and Juan de Jesus Vargas. If you have any info on juan jose Vargas born around 1768, please contact me. Thank you for your time.

Dano Vargas said...

I would love to collaborate with you on your research. Amazing article. I am researching my Vargas side. I have actually found a cousin doing the same research. Our grandfathers were brothers in 1824. Juan Luis Vargas and Juan de Jesus Vargas. If you have any info on juan jose Vargas born around 1768, please contact me. Thank you for your time.

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