JEWS IN THE AZORES pre 1773--PICO
The presence of Portuguese Jews in the Azores likely predates the ineffective edict of expulsion of December 5, 1496 of king Manuel I, and the subsequent forced mass baptism of all Portuguese Jews in the fall of 1497. Very little research has been done concerning Jewish presence in the Azores before the 19th century. ( Prime Minister Pombal who ended the persecution of New Christians permitted Jews to return to Portugal in the late 18th century-see related posts)
With respect to the island of Pico, there is a reference in a local history publication by Lajes city Council to an expulsion in 1503 of a New Christian. ( Historia do concelho das Lages, F.S.de Lacerda Machado, Figueira da Foz, 1936-reprinted by Lages city council in 1991)
The author states at p. 91 (after a summarising the 1496 edict),
" alguns procuraram asilo nas ilhas.." (some sought asylum in the islands)
He then describes the lifestyle of the early Jews in Lajes (which appears not to be based on any historical fact) and refers to the case of a New Christian, Afonso Alvares (merchant) who was expelled from Pico on November 4, 1503. Apparently Alvares did not take it lying down because he returned in 1507 with a letter from the King ordering his reinstatement on the island. The king's order was not well received by the council but was supported by one Pedro Anes, a municipal councillor. Anes' support of Alvares forced his resignation from Council on August 20, 1507. The author states that the Council considered Anes to be a Jew.
Lacerda Machado states that the archives contains no other information about the case. If I recall correctly, he comments that the file went missing. Perhaps it was destroyed in an unrelated sacking of municipal records by an enraged mob in the 19th century.
The author ends the chapter with a reference to "Abraham" a well known Jew in Lajes in 1848. Abraham was probably one of the returning Sephardim from North Africa and Gibraltar at the beginning of the 19th century who settled on one of the islands. There are cemeteries from that period in São Miguel, Terçeira, Fayal, and an extant synagogue in Ponta Delgada.
Some new research is being currently conducted but much more needs to be done. The Amsterdam notarial records posted elsewhere are a rich source of information for the 16th and early 17th centuries with many references to the Azores. Research in the national archives in Lisbon by Fernanda Guimarães will add greatly to available information concerning Azorean cases in the Inquisition, which were tried in Lisbon where today stands the Dona Maria II national theatre on the north end of Rossio square and the location of the forced baptism of 1497 .
Fernanda's research points to well developed communications between New Christians in Ponta Delgada, Livorno (Leghorn), Lisbon, and London. Samuel Usques', Consolation for the Tribulations of Israel, published in Portuguese in 1553 at Ferrara, likely paid for by the "Senhora" (Dona Gracia Mendes (Nassi) born in Lisbon, the wealthiest banker in Europe at the time), made its way to Ponta Delgada in the Azores! (Inquisition file of Maria Lopes, the first Azorean to be burned at the stake in Lisbon. In the late 1500's, she wrote prayers in Hebrew while incarcerated before her demise).
JEWS IN THE AZORES pre 1773--PICO