127,000 applications made for Spanish nationality
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127,000 applications made for Spanish nationality

Tidal wave of requests was triggered in 2015 after Spain passed a naturalisation law to atone for the 15th century expulsion

A total of 127,000 applications for Spanish nationality have been submitted from around the world
A total of 127,000 applications for Spanish nationality have been submitted from around the world

An incredible 127,000 applications for Spanish nationality have been lodged from Jews and their descendants around the world, after a deadline expired.

The tidal wave of requests was triggered in 2015 after Spain passed a naturalisation law to atone for the 15th century expulsion or forced conversion of Sephardi Jews by Spain’s Catholic monarchs, victorious after defeating the Muslim Moors.

Until then, there were thriving Jewish communities in places such as Toledo, a major cultural centre in the Middle Ages, and in the Moorish kingdom of Al-Andalus. Jewish merchants helped the country establish trade routes and Jewish scholars made a significant impact, so the religion was tolerated in the devoutly Catholic country.

However, the Catholic conquest of Granada in 1492 led to the expulsion order, forcing thousands of Sephardi Jews abroad, subsequently settling in places such as North Africa, the Balkans, Turkey and Latin America.

Since 2015 applicants, many of whom currently live in Central and South America, have had to prove a family connection to medieval Spain and get their Sephardi origins certified by a solicitor in Spain. Portugal recently initiated a similar scheme.

Before 2015, Sephardi Jews needed to show two years’ residence in Spain before requesting Spanish nationality, or get a special government dispensation, and often had to give up their existing nationality to become Spanish.

“The majority [of applicants] who want to benefit from a Spanish passport are young people, between 25 and 35 years old, almost all professionals,” said Colombian genealogist Rocío Sánchez, speaking to AFP.

Applicant Ángel Calderón, an Argentinian Sephardi Jew living in the Colombian capital of Bogotá, praised the Spanish king for reaching out to the descendants of Jews forced to leave more than half a millennium ago.

“The fact King Felipe of Spain tells us face to face how much they wronged us, and that we are welcome home – this is something that heals, or seeks to repair the harm caused by a historical injustice,” he said.

 

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