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In the 16th century, Lima, the capital of Peru, was the home of a wealthy and flourishing Marrano community. These Jews, who had converted to Catholicism to escape expulsion from Spain in 1492, had fled to the New World in the hope of finding greater freedom to practice Judaism. Their great wealth, amassed in international trade, soon aroused the envy of the Spanish rulers. In 1569, an Inquisitorial Office was founded to detect the heretics and confiscate their property. In the course of two centuries, after 34 public burnings of “heretics,” the Inquisition succeeded in eradicating the entire Marrano community. In 1870, Alsatian Jews settled in Lima and quickly assimilated. Not until the 1920’s did immigrants from Argentina, Brazil, Turkey, and Europe succeed in establishing a permanent Jewish community. They achieved considerable success in the manufacture and sale of furniture, furs, and knitted goods. During the 1930’s, antisemitic propaganda spread by the German Embassy led the government to impose severe restrictions on immigration, restrictions which are still in effect. In 2007 there were about 2,800 Jews out of a total population of more than 22 million. More than 90% live in Lima, the rest in small cities.

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