Francisco Maldonado da Silva

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Francisco Maldonado da Silva (1592 – 23 January 1639)[1] was an Argentine marrano physician who was burned at the stake with eleven other Jews in Lima in the largest Auto-da-fé recorded in history. His life has been novelized by Argentinean best selling author Marcos Aguinis in the book Against the Inquisition.

Francisco was born in San Miguel de Tucumán to a marrano family of Portuguese Jewish background. He learned about his Jewishness through his father Diego Nuñez da Silva, who was a Jewish physician. Francisco studied the scriptures while he was a medical student. After a few years in Chile, he decided to assume fully his Jewishness and stop hiding as a Christian (marrano), circumcising himself and adopting a new name Eli Nazareno or Elijah the Nazarite.[2][3] He grew his hair and beard and started signing his name "Heli Nazareo, unworthy servant of God of Israel, alias Silva".[4] He was abducted at night and taken to Lima where he was held in the secret prisons of the Inquisition for six years. During those years, he was confronted 13 times by Catholic theologians whom tried to help him find the "True Faith". His astounding knowledge made him valuable even to his enemies. He was held accountable for the heresy of honoring the "law of Moses", something objectionable to the Holy Inquisition.

At the time of his death, he had been imprisoned since 1627.[5] According to a 2010 book, he was imprisoned because he tried to convert his two sisters, who had converted to Catholicism, and they denounced him.[6]

Further reading[edit]

  • Bodian, Miriam (2007). Dying in the Law of Moses: Crypto-Jewish Martyrdom in the Iberian World. Indiana University Press. p. 129-152. Retrieved May 7, 2015.
  • Aguinis, Marcos (2018) Against the Inquisition. Amazon Crossing.


  1. ^ Francisco Maldonado da Silva, Retrieved August 17, 2017.
  2. ^ Cohn-Sherbok, Dan (2010). Dictionary of Jewish Biography. A & C Black. p. 268. ISBN 1441197842. Retrieved May 7, 2015.
  3. ^ Beller, Jacob (1969). Jews in Latin America. J. David. p. 147. Retrieved May 7, 2015.
  4. ^ Bodian, Miriam (2007). Dying in the Law of Moses: Crypto-Jewish Martyrdom in the Iberian World. Indiana University Press. p. 135. Retrieved May 7, 2015.
  5. ^ Segal Freilich, Ariel (1999). Jews of the Amazon: Self-exile in Earthly Paradise. Jewish Publication Society. p. 40. ISBN 0827606699. Retrieved May 7, 2015.
  6. ^ Frank, Ben G. (2010). A Travel Guide to the Jewish Caribbean and Latin America. Pelican Publishing Company. p. 431. ISBN 1455613304. Retrieved May 7, 2015.