My new Portugal passport is one step towards justice
A 33-YEAR-OLD Panamanian has become the first Sephardic Jew to obtain Portuguese nationality under a new law that enables descendants of Portuguese Jews living in other countries to claim their ancestral citizenship.
The Portuguese government awarded Alfonso Paredes Portuguese nationality on October 2. He described the moment as an attempt “to correct the great injustice done to the Jews” and said that he felt “pride and great emotional satisfaction” at having gained Portuguese nationality.
“My family was always aware of its history and origins but we never imagined that this would be possible,” said Mr Paredes, who hopes to visit Portugal next year.
Mr Paredes’s brother, sister and mother have also applied for citizenship, along with about 200 other Jews from around the world.
Mr Paredes and his family are direct descendants of Eliau Abraham Lopes, a rabbi who lived in
Alfonso Paredes Curaçao in the early 18th century, and his wife, Raquel Nunes da Fonseca.
The law that permitted Mr Paredes to obtain Portuguese nationality was passed in April 2013 and was designed to compensate for an historical injustice that began in 1497, when King Manuel I ordered the Jews of Portugal to be forcibly converted.
About 40 years later, the Inquisition began persecuting converted Jews for continuing to practise their ancestral religion in secret. Over the next three centuries, those Portuguese Jews who wished to escape persecution and practise their religion, openly escaped to such cities as Constantinople (Istanbul), Salonika and Amsterdam, turning them into flourishing centres of Sephardic culture.
Jews who are members of a Sephardic community outside Portugal and who can demonstrate a link to the country based on such criteria as family name and genealogical records are eligible for citizenship. Those interested may apply t h r o u g h t h e Jewish community in Oporto.