Explore the History of the Jewish Experience in New Mexico
New Mexico has long welcomed Jewish residents, from the German-born adventurers and merchants in the 1800s when New Mexico was still a U.S. Territory to the doctors, scientists, professors, lawyers, accountants, and artists of more recent times. Although only a small percentage of the overall population of New Mexico, Jewish residents have played an important role in its history.
Jewish history in New Mexico started centuries ago when it was still a territory of Spain. A number of colonists who settled in New Mexico in the 17th and 18th centuries were descendants of forced converts fleeing the Inquisition. Formerly Spanish and Portuguese Jews, they had converted to Catholicism under duress, but privately they clung to Jewish practices in secret. Some of their Hispanic descendants today are investigating their families’ crypto-Jewish roots.
The New Mexico Jewish Historical Society was formed in 1985 to tell the stories of the many Jewish groups that came and stayed and helped make New Mexico a remarkable place. The Society sponsors ongoing research, presents lectures, holds conferences, shows films, gives genealogy workshops, maintains archives, sells booklets about the history of pioneer Jewish families, and publishes a quarterly newsletter, Legacy.
Judeo descanso located on New Mexico highway 64, west of Taos.
A descanso is a roadside memorial to mark the place where a loved one died in an accident. Photo by Sharon Niederman.