Time for a name change?

Residents of Matajudíos (literally, Killjews) to vote on whether to call their village something else

The nearby town of Castrojeriz cleared its Jewish quarter in 1035.
The nearby town of Castrojeriz cleared its Jewish quarter in 1035.getty images

After four centuries seemingly commemorating the expulsion and mistreatment of Spain’s Jews, the 56 men and women on the electoral register of the village of Castrillo Matajudíos (literally Killjews), in northern Spain, are to vote on whether to change the name of their community.

Lorenzo Rodríguez Pérez, the village’s mayor, says the vote will take place on May 25, the day of the European elections. “The name has offended more than a few people over the years,” he told local newspaper El Diario de Burgos, pointing out that people from Matajudíos have encountered hostility in many parts of the world, including Israel.

In the run-up to the vote, the village’s local council organized a talk by archeologist Ángel Luis Palomino, who pointed out that the name first appears in 1623, although it is likely to date back much further.

The village’s mayor says there is no tradition of anti-Semitism among its inhabitants

Should a majority of voters decide on a name change, their options will include Castrillo Motajudíos and Castrillo Mota de Judíos. Mota means mound or hill in Spanish. The mayor believes that this was the original name of the community, and that a spelling mistake in an official register led to it being renamed. Over the last 30 years there have been a number of attempts to change the village’s name, with one proposal being Castrillo de Cabezón, in honor of the Renaissance composer Antonio de Cabezón, who was born there in 1510.

Rodríguez Pérez says there is no evidence that Jews were ever killed in the village, and that there is no tradition of anti-Semitism among its inhabitants. In contrast, in 1035, the neighboring community of Castrojeriz destroyed its Jewish quarter, killing 60 Jews and expelling the survivors to a small hillside near Castrillo. The community became known as Mota de Judíos.

The planned name change has made headlines around the world, with many newspapers expressing surprise that such a name could have survived into the 21st century.

Some Muslims have suggested on the social networks that it is about time that Spaniards stopped calling Saint James Santiago Matamoros which means “Moorkiller.”

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