The Spanish government recently decided to grant citizenship to the descendants of Jews expelled from the country in 1492. Ilan Stavans, the Lewis-Sebring Professor in Latin American and Latino Culture at Amherst, doesn’t think anyone needs to be packing their bags just yet.
In a column for the New York Times, Stavans wrote “Spain's latter-day conversion to philo-Semitism … is more apparent than real. The truth is that the Jews left in 1492 — but the anti-Semitism stayed behind.”
“Spain finds itself still mired in the worst financial crisis in memory,” he wrote. “Inviting Jews to settle in times of economic trouble is a strategy employed before, including in the Hispanic world. At the end of the 19th century, Jewish immigrants were courted as harbingers of modernity by Argentina and Mexico. And in the 20th century, the region of Sosúa on the northern coast of the Dominican Republic was allocated for Jewish refugees from the Holocaust — in hopes that they would push the underdeveloped region forward.”
He concluded “it would be foolish to think of Spain's self-interested offer as the end of that diaspora. In fact, we are in the midst of a Sephardic cultural revival, largely in the United States and Israel.”