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Federated republic in North America. Early in the 16th century, Mexico was a center of activity for Spanish conquistadores intent on exploiting the wealth of Montezuma’s empire. With them had come a group of Marranos, or secret Jews. The Marranos quickly prospered in commerce and thus aroused the hostility of their neighbors. As early as 1528, a Marrano shipbuilder was burned at the stake. But systematic persecution began only in 1570, with the establishment of an Office of the Inquisition. By 1820, when the Inquisition was abolished, the Marrano community had disappeared. Its only remaining traces are several thousand Indians who live in Mexico City and claim Marrano descent.

The modern community, composed chiefly of East European Jews, was founded in the 19th century. In 2007, there were about 40,000 Jews in Mexico, an increase of about 20,000 since 1940. Immigration has been limited since 1950. The vast majority of the Jewish population lives in Mexico City, but there are active communities in Guadalajara, Monterey, and elsewhere. Mexican Jews, living in freedom and equality with their neighbors, have become shopkeepers, manufacturers, and artisans. A small number have entered the professions. They have formed several synagogues, Zionist organizations, local charity activities, B’nai B’rith lodges, and youth groups.

Mexico City is especially noted for its community center and Jewish schools, in which about 85% of the capital’s Jewish children are enrolled. There are a number of all-day schools. The pride of the system is the Colegio Israelita de Mexico, where Spanish, Yiddish, and Hebrew are taught from the elementary school through the college levels. Its Faculty of Philosophy and Letters, founded in 1952, is affiliated with the National University of Mexico. The Albert Einstein School is a non-sectarian institution built by the Jewish community and presented to the government to aid its school construction program.

The Mexican Jewish press is also notable. There were three publications of Jewish interest: one in Yiddish, one in Spanish and Hebrew, and one in Spanish. The Encyclopedia Judaica Castellana, a Jewish encyclopedia in Spanish, with special emphasis on Latin American Jewry, was first published in 1952. (See also Latin America.)

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