Fire & Song: The Story of Luis de Carvajal and the Mexican Inquisition
One thinks of the Inquisition as a European phenomenon, but as Anna Lanyon shows in this highly readable account of events in late 16th-century Mexico, it stretched its tentacles into the New World. Lanyon draws a vivid portrait of Luis de Carvajal, a young man of who, when he embraced Judaism, also chose a new name, Joseph Lumbroso. His Jewish forebears had fled persecution in both Spain and Portugal. Over generations, some of his relatives genuinely adopted Christianity while others maintained only an outer semblance of adherence to Catholic practice. After his family settled in Mexico, Lumbroso sought to follow what he called “the Law of Moses.” This brought him to the attention of inquisitors in Mexico City, endangering also his mother and sister.
Surviving records of Lumbroso’s testimony before the Inquisition allow Lanyon to give us a chronicle of the investigation. The story attests to the remarkable strength of the Jewish faith, a faith that Lumbroso’s family hid but preserved for generations. But Lanyon points out that Lumbroso never had even the briefest opportunity for rabbinical instruction. His version of Judaism, constructed from family memory and his own reading of the Bible, was infused with Christian concepts. Poignantly, he was in error in thinking he was embracing traditional Judaism. Defiant in defense of his own beliefs, Lumbroso emerges as a human being of considerable valor. This is a wrenching true story. The book is as engrossing as a novel.
Allen & Unwin
Fire and Song: The Story of Luis de Carvajal and the Mexican Inquisition