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Francisco Maldonado da Silva, Jewish Physician, Executed, 1639

On This Day in Jewish History, January 23, 1639

On this day, 1639, Jewish physician Francisco Maldonado da Silva was burned on a stake at the height of the Spanish / Portuguese Inquisitions in an Auto-da-fe ("Act of Faith") as a heretic— because he was Jewish. He was burned with 11 other Jews in Lima, Peru at the largest Auto-da-fe recorded in history. As a child Francisco was always fascinated with the daily tasks he saw his father perform. Hence, Francisco, like his father Diego Nunez da Silva, became an operating physician in Argentina. Unaware of his Jewish roots, da Silva was known as a devout Catholic practicing the faith of his mother. However, his religious and theological studies led him to question and uncover the many layers of Judaism.

This brought Francisco to question his father about Judaism and whether or not they were indeed of Jewish descent. Although Don Diego married a New Christian to avoid persecution, he held on to his Jewish identity. Once Francisco confirmed their Jewishness, he went on a journey to discover and reconnect with his roots. He proceeded to give himself the Hebrew name: Eliahu Hanazir, circumcised himself, and, through self discipline, grew a beard. Being a Jew in South America during this time period was no different than growing up as a Jew during the Spanish Inquisition. Inquisitors were among every village seeking to eliminate Jews. Betrayed by his own sister Dona Isabel Maldonado, Francisco was arrested in the dead of night in his own home on April 29, 1627. After 6 years of imprisonment and 14 attempts to convert Francisco, Francisco was sentenced to death. You can read more about Francisco’s upbringing and journey in "Against the Inquisition" by Marcos Aguinis.

May Francisco’s valor inspire us to not hide our identity, but defend it! " Señor, I am a Jew. I profess the religion -of Moses; I will live and die in it, and, if it is necessary to swear, I take my oath by the living God, who is in heaven and earth, the God of Israel; and by this oath, according to the religion of Moses, I vow to tell the truth, and say herewith: I am the bachelor Francisco Maldonado Silva [sic] , graduate surgeon, born in the city of San Miguel de Tucuman, in the kingdom of Peru, and am 35 years old.”


Image source: https://images.app.goo.gl/YXZjWLv9YEFRYe3cA

Kohut, George Alexander. “THE TRIAL OF FRANCISCO MALDONADO DE SILVA.” Publications of the American Jewish Historical Society, no. 11 (1903): 163–79. http://www.jstor.org/stable/43057645.

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