Luis de Carvajal el Mozo
Today is the 401st anniversary of the martyrdom of Luis de Carvajal el mozo, according to the Gregorian calendar (which was not used at the time in Mexico). Martyrdom comes from the Greek and means “to bear witness”, and by remembering and reminding, we extend his martyrdom into our time.
May his memory be blessed.
Attached are part of a lecture I once gave and a poem I wrote in his memory.
Luis de Carvajal el Mozo, was the nephew, namesake and heir designate of the first Governor of Nuevo Reino de León. Possibly the largest land tract granted anyone by Spain, it stretched from eastern Mexico, through the Southwest of the US. When Luis learned that he was a Jew, the impact on him was tremendous. A man of culture, of letters and verse who knew how to play the harp and sing, knew several languages and possessed a great spirit, Luis was unable or unwilling to conceal his faith. He went about convincing anyone he could, to observe the “law of Moses”; prayers attributed to him were recited to Inquisitors a century after his death by subsequent victims. He was arrested, and in the cells of the Inquisitions converted his cell mate, a monk, to Judaism. There he also changed his name to Joseph Lumbroso: Joseph after the biblical dreamer, since Luis also had inspired dreams, and Lumbroso meaning the Enlightened. After his first arrest, torture and incarceration — knowing full well that a second arrest meant the stake — he did not relent. Joseph-Luis was denounced again by a would be proselyte. His second arrest was marked with religious pride and steadfastness that left its mark even on his tormentors. He attempted suicide, hoping thus to escape denouncing others under torture. He debated those sent to convert him with eloquence, knowledge and spirit. Seymour Liebman, in his seminal book The Jews of New Spain, translated the words of Padre Contreras who walked Luis to his fate:
He was always such a good Jew and he reconciled his understanding, which was very profound and sensitive, with his highly inspired Divine determination to defend the Law of God — the Mosaic — and to fight for it. I have no doubt that if he had lived before the Incarnation of our Redeemer, he would have been a heroic Hebrew and his name would have been as famous in the Bible as are the names of those who died in the defense of their law when it was necessary.
El Lumbroso by Schulamith Chava Halevy
That night I was so radiant
You could barely see me for my light.
Now in the incandescent dawn
I am paraded before your helpless eye.
The stakes are high
enough for me to see my angel cry.
Padre Contreras, frail and vulnerable
Listen! the flames' voice is cracking
Hear them sigh…
My flesh imploding in the fire
Together we witness it reduce to ashes
Together watch it fly.
You and I,
How we danced ever closer to the flames
—to my flesh, to its demise
Your old soul knows I could not die,
but your mind is young,
Cannot yet read the milestones of the sky.
Cloistered in my afterglow
Shawled in me
You stood in prayer
That the light I have become
My apparition soars
Carried in your dreams.
Four hundred years in the abyss
I can still embrace
can enter you
Breathe my eternity into your soul.