Mayor to quit if Fort Kill Jews rejects name change

Sunday 25 May 2014 19.21
The town organised the vote to coincide with polling for European elections today
The town organised the vote to coincide with polling for European elections today

Centuries after the Spanish Inquisition, a village named "Kill Jews" votes today on whether to change its name.

The mayor of Castrillo Matajudios, which translates as "Fort Kill Jews, said he would resign unless its 56 voters approve changing the embarrassing name.

"When you travel elsewhere, you always have to explain, because people say, 'You kill Jews in Castrillo,'" the mayor, Lorenzo Rodriguez, said.

"It makes no sense because we are descended from a Jewish community. We have a star of David on our coat of arms."

He said the town was home to a Jewish community which settled on a mound, or mota, in the area.

They remained there until 1492 when Jews were mostly expelled by a brutal religious tribunal known as the Inquisition.

It allowed only those who converted to the Roman Catholic faith to stay in Spain.

Archaeologist Angel Palomino said it was thought descendants of Jews who had converted to Roman Catholicism decided to change the town's name to prove the purity of their faith.

The town, near the northern city of Burgos, organised the vote to coincide with polling for European elections today.

Locals were offered the choice of keeping the current name or changing it to Castrillo Motajudios or Castrillo Mota de Judios, which mean Mound of the Jews.

The result was expected to be known at the same time as the provisional count from the European elections, later this evening.

The town hall will meet on 3 June to consider the result.

Although estimates vary, historians believe at least 200,000 Jews lived in Spain before the 1492 expulsion.

Many who refused to convert or leave were burned at the stake.

Palomino said up to 1,500 people likely lived in the Jewish settlement that later became known as Matajudios.

Spain now offers citizenship to Sephardic Jews who can prove they are descended from those who were expelled.

Keywords: fort kill jews