Emigrate to Spain - Merlin
Some Hispanics With Jewish Roots Pursue an Exit Strategy:
Tue Nov 6, 2018 12:32pm

Sandra Arazi-Coambs, left, studied Spanish with Mauricia Alarcón Moreno at the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque. Ms. Arazi-Coambs has been taking language and civics classes to prepare to apply for Spanish citizenship.

ALBUQUERQUE — Ana Maria Gallegos’s family has called this part of the West home for centuries. But after growing horrified by the resurgent racism she has seen across the United States, she reviewed her options and decided on a plan: emigrate to Spain.

Ms. Gallegos joined a growing number of Hispanics from the United States benefiting from a 2015 Spanish law seeking to atone for one of the grimmest chapters in Spain’s history: the expulsion of thousands of Sephardic Jews in 1492. The law offers citizenship to descendants of those Jews, many of whom converted to Catholicism but secretly adhered to Jewish traditions as they settled in New Mexico and other frontiers of the Spanish Empire.

“I had neighbors start spewing the same racist talk as the president of the United States,” said Ms. Gallegos, 54, a court reporter raised here in a Catholic family. “All this hatred just scared the wits out of me, but fortunately I had this ancestral connection.” She left New Mexico this year with her husband and 12-year-old daughter, moving to Málaga in southern Spain.

Americans pursuing Spanish citizenship often cite a mixture of reasons, including the chance to experience the different cultures of Spain, access to public health care, or the lower cost of higher education at European universities. But many also express alarm over a recent surge in hate crimes and harassment targeting Hispanics, and President Trump’s demonization of Latin American immigrants as criminals and invaders.

Their efforts to obtain Spanish citizenship reflect a troubling new twist in the Hispanic experience in the United States: Some whose families have been here for centuries now feel so vulnerable about their place in society that they are finding refuge in the country that expelled their ancestors five centuries ago.

Such fears seem to be growing more acute. Sixty-seven percent of Hispanics in the United States say the Trump administration’s polices have been harmful to Hispanics, compared with 15 percent during the Obama administration, according to a poll released in October by the Pew Research Center. Forty-nine percent of Hispanics say they have serious concerns about their place in American society, up from 41 percent in 2017, the poll showed.

“Our applications jump every time Trump says something scary,” said Sara Koplik, director of community outreach at the Jewish Federation of New Mexico, an organization vetting applicants for the Spanish government. “Some want Spanish citizenship as a kind of insurance policy in case things go very wrong in this country.”

Read more: https://nyti.ms/2D3tiZP

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