Some of the most vibrant Jewish neighborhoods in North America exist “South of the Border” in Mexico, where over 40,000 Jews have created a close-knit, distinct community.
Many of the new territory’s Jews fled to neighboring Peru.
Governor de Carvajal himself was arrested on charges of practicing Judaism and died in prison in 1595. “Suspicious” activities that could brand someone a Jew included bathing on a Friday and afterwards putting on clean clothes; draining and disposing of blood after slaughtering a bird to eat; fasting on Yom Kippur; eating tortillas (which are unleavened) during Passover; and circumcising sons.
Anyone guilty of these “crimes” faced drastic punishments including torture, imprisonment, forced wearing of a sanbenito, a knee-length yellow gown, or a dunce-cap, and execution.
(The area of Puebla might have been home to a thriving secret Jewish community of its own; see the section on Jewish-Mexican food, below.) Despite this victory, French forces went on to conquer Mexico, and set up the short-lived Second Mexican Empire.
In 1864, Emperor Maximilian I declared himself ruler and though he never consolidated his reign over all of Mexico, the short-lived monarch did make one remarkable change in Mexico: he issued an edict of religious tolerance and invited German Jews to settle in Mexico.
When Hernan Cortés first conquered Mexico for Spain in 1521, he did so with a number of secret Jews amongst his men.