After almost four centuries of oppression and fear, Gustavo returns to the Jewish People.
375 years ago, Gustavo Ramirez-Calderon’s ancestors were judged by the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions for Judaizing (holding on to Jewish traditions in secret).
Gustavo’s family descends through the maternal line directly from Maria Pereira Cardoso of the Alvarez de Pereira Family of Portugal who was tried in Valladolid Spain for 1640 and Ramirez Goncalvez de Roiz Maior who was tried by the Inquisition of Mogadauro, Braganza and Trancoso from 1640 to 1660.
However, this secret ancestry was only revealed a few years ago.
Gustavo tells us the story: “My great-grandmother Maria told my mother in 1978 that we came from Jews. This happened shortly before my younger brother was born in November of that year. From there we started our research.
At first it was very difficult. My great-grandmother Maria was born in 1888 and was very close to turning 100, she lived until 1992 and was still very afraid to say this, don’t forget the Inquisition lasted until 1821, meaning it still existed in the lifetimes of her grandparents and parents.
We sought help from historians who made fun of us by saying that such a thing could never happen. We started with some church records and slowly we were rebuilding our roots, however it was until the records were digitized that we were able to move forward.
My mother, my grandmother and my great grandmother had passed away by 1997 so I continued alone. I reviewed the records of deaths, births and marriages, as well as the records of notaries all the way back to 1605. Then I received help from Genie Milgrom with whom I have a common ancestor, Ramirez Gonzalez de Roiz Maior. I was able to improve my search method until I found the records of the Alvarez de Pereira family in the Torre do Tombo archives in Portugal and in some digitized files from Spain as the act of reconciliation of Nuno Alvarez de Pereira who was uncle of Maria, my great-grandmother 15 times.”
Finally, after painstaking work joining the almost untraceable dots, Gustavo found his unbroken maternal line and returned to the Jewish People in a ceremony presided over by Rabbis Balter of Beersheva, Israel, Feiguin (Gustavo’s teacher) and Kraselnik from Panama. The ceremony took place at the B'nei Israel Congregation in Costa Rica, where there was also a group of 21 adults and 9 children who adopted Judaism, Rabbi Feiguin was Av Beit Din (President of the Rabbinical Tribunal).