Family Ferreira da Fonseca, c. 1600-1625

Since the defeat of the Moors from Ceuta in 1415, many of our Portuguese ships and merchants had to find trade else- where.  They were doing particularly well sailing down the west coast of Africa and trading with the native peoples and also made their way into the Indies. I, like my great grandfather, Andres, before me, was given a great amount of work on the docks unloading all the merchandise our Portuguese ships had obtained because they were doing so well in exploration and trade.

Recently, one of the ships just returned from the eastern Mediterranean near Venice, but when my crew and I went to unload it, we found hardly anything in the ship. I overheard one of the crew members talking and they were furious that the Venetians wouldn’t trade with them because that means a loss in profit. Since unloading commodities was my job and there was not anything to unload I questioned one of the crew members on the occurrences in Venice. He told me, “Os venezianos não trocar bens com nós, porque alguns de nossos membros da tripulação eram marranos.”  In translation, the Venetians would not trade with the crew because some of them were Marranos. Many that were considered to be Marranos were not trusted by Christians or Jews simply because they switched faiths even if it was unwilling.[1]

Unfortunately, there is a large population of Portuguese Marranos due to the expulsion of all the Jews from Spain almost two- hundred years earlier. Many of us that are of Jewish faith were then forced to convert to Christianity to keep our place in society. If conversion wasn’t enough to add, my country of Portugal has and still continues to be under the rule of Spain.[2]

Arturo Ferriera da Fonseca


[1] Dursteler, Eric. Venetians In Constantinople. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 2006. 103-129.

[2] Griffin Ortiz, Julia. Spain and Portugal. New York: Infobase Publishing, 2007. 146.

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