The end has come for Castrillo Matajudíos, the small village in Burgos province that gained global notoriety after announcing it would hold a referendum on May 25 to consider a name change from the current “Little Hill-Fort of Jew Killers.”
“Everyone is watching expectantly to see what we will do: in Italy, in New York...” said Mayor Lorenzo Rodríguez a few days before the vote, which was made to coincide with elections to the European Parliament.
The uncertainty came to an end at 8pm on Sunday, when the vote count showed a majority support for changing the village’s name to Castrillo de Mota de Judíos, or Little Hill-Fort on Jew Hill. “Mota” means hill or mound in Spanish, and the mayor has posited that this was probably the community’s original name before a spelling mistake on an official document changed it to Matajudíos in 1623.
It’s been offensive to more than one person,” admits the mayor
Turnout on Sunday was very high, with 52 residents out of the 56 with a right to vote choosing to express their views on their local nomenclature. Results, however, show something of a division between supporters of change (29) and defenders of tradition (19), with four votes ruled not valid, according to local authorities. The village has total registered population of 60 people.
“On June 3 we will hold a plenary session to begin the paperwork for the name change, since this is something that the local council cannot do by itself,” explained Rodríguez, of the regional party Partido Regionalista de Castilla y León. “It has been a very intense day, and everyone has respected the results that came out of the vote.”
Even among proponents of change, there were those who favored the name Castrillo Motajudíos (3) and those who opted for Castrillo Mota de Judíos (26).
It has been a very intense day, and everyone has respected the results that came out of the vote”
Although the village made world headlines when it announced the referendum, local authorities had in fact been mulling a name change since 2009.
“It’s been offensive to more than one person,” admits the mayor, adding that the current name does not do credit to a village that is “heir to a Jewish community, and which has the star of David on its coat-of-arms.”
Back in 2009, the local government considered changing the location’s name to Castrillo de Cabezón in honor of Antonio Cabezón, a Renaissance musician who was born here in 1510.
Last month, local officials brought in a guest speaker, the archeologist Ángel Luis Palomino, to enlighten the locals about the origins of their hometown. Mayor Rodríguez insists that their forebears did not participate in the killing of around 60 Jews in 1035, but that it was their neighbors of Castrojeriz, four kilometers down the road, who laid waste to their Jewish quarter, killing most of its inhabitants and forcing the survivors away to a nearby hill, which eventually became Castrillo Mota de Judíos.