The Jewish Palate: The Jews of Cuba

31.05.2011                      27.Ijar, 5771                      Tag 42 des Omer

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The Jewish Palate: The Jews of Cuba

Chef Dennis Wasko explores how Jews arrived on the Caribbean island and the way their cuisine has been influenced by salsa dancing locals.

No one knows exactly when the first Jews arrived in Cuba, but some definitely arrived after the expulsion from Spain in 1492. Legend holds that there were three Jews among Christopher Columbus’ crew. They were Marranos, forced converts to Catholicism. Chances are that there is some truth to this legend as it would be the best way to get as far away as possible from Spain and the dreaded Inquisition. Other than these spotty accounts, there is little information about Jews on the Island of Cuba until the formation of a large Jewish community in the late 19th century.
During the 16th and 17th centuries many Jews, fleeing Portuguese persecutions in Brazil, immigrated to Cuba. The new Jewish arrivals established trade in Cuba and by the 18th century, Cuban Jewish trade had reached Europe. The Jews were relentlessly persecuted at this time which forced many to assimilate into Cuban society. During the 1880’s, more Jews arrived from the Dutch Antilles and were instrumental in supporting Cuba’s war of independence against Spain in 1898. After the Spanish American War, many Jewish American war veterans settled in Cuba and founded a Jewish congregation in Havana in 1904. These Jews became instrumental in Cuba’s sugar cane and tobacco trade….