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Reconectar, an organization which seeks to reconnect the descendants of Spanish and Portuguese Jewish communities with the Jewish world, applauded the passage of a law designating March 31 as the official Memorial Day for Victims of the Inquisition in the Assembly of the Republic, the Portuguese Parliament. The law, passed last Friday, received wall to wall support from all factions and parties in the parliament.

“This is a historic and important decision, because finally there will be official memorialization of the tens of thousands of victims of the Inquisitorial regime which hounded and hunted our people for 275 years,” said Ashley Perry (Perez), President of Reconectar. “Hopefully, this day will create greater awareness of this dark chapter of Jewish and Portuguese history which still casts a giant shadow across the world with tens of millions of descendants of Spanish and Portuguese Jewish communities still disconnected from any knowledge of their ancestry.”

“We see many of these descendants discovering their ancestry through DNA tests, genealogical advances and familial traditions, and this law will hopefully raise another level of understanding about the deep and shared roots between the Jewish people, the Portuguese people and Latino and Hispanic populations, many of whom are the result of the forced disconnection due to the Inquisition.”

A groundbreaking academic study of the genetic origins of Latin Americans at the end of 2018 found that nearly a quarter of people in Latin America have significant Jewish ancestry. Meaning that if one extrapolates that to the population of Latin America, those North Americans with roots there, and those from the Iberian Peninsular, there are well over 200 million Latinos and Hispanics who are descended from Jews who were forcibly converted and disconnected from Jewish communities in Spain and Portugal during the Inquisition, many of whom fled to the New World for refuge.

“Unfortunately, in recent years the terminology and memory of the Inquisition has become debased somewhat because of its usage in popular parlance and even for comedic purposes,” Perry said. “However, it was one of the most traumatic events in the history of the Jewish history and its effects are still felt today, so hopefully this day will help people understand the brutality, effect and significance of this evil regime.”

“I hope other nations, like Spain and Israel, will follow suit and also pass days to commemorate the victims of the Inquisition.”

The choice of March 31 was chosen for the Day of Remembrance for the Victims of the Inquisition, because it was on March 31, 1821 that the Inquisition in Portugal was officially disbanded.

The law states that while there were many victims of the Inquisition, it was mainly targeted against Portuguese Jews and their descendants, accusing them of Judaizing or crypto-Jewish practices. The Inquisition operated in Portugal from 1546, during the reign of King João III, until March 31, 1821. Over the course of 275 years, the Portuguese Inquisition alone opened around 45,000 cases, mainly against this population.