Ladina Opens Tertulia Series in Porto

Captain Barros Basto whom the noted historian Cecil Roth called “the apostle of the Marranos” was the subject of the first of a series of tertulias or salons in September sponsored by Ladina a registered nonprofit society in Porto Portugal which focuses on the history and culture of the Sephardic Jews of Portugal

The event which took place at the recently opened Literary Club of Porto on the banks of the Douro river featured guest speakers Professor Elvira Mea coauthor of Biografia de Barros Basto; Antonio Melo investigative journalist; Elisha Salas Rabbi of Shavei Israel Synagogue and Barros Basto’s granddaughter Isabel

On display were the Captain’s medals from the first World War along with his sword and hat as well as copies of his publications There was also a large black and white framed picture of Barros Basto in uniform His presence radiated amongst the full capacity crowd The guest panel was introduced by Alexandre Teixeira Mendes Marrano poet He commented on the evolving ambivelant nature of Marranism in a Christian world

Professor Mea noted authourity on Portuguese Jewish history decribed the Captain as a visionary who took on the task of rescuing the secretive Marranos of Northern Portugal from obscurity She described his life long work and eventual persectution by Salazar’s fascist dictatorship and its accomplice the Catholic Church More importantly she described Barros Basto as an intellectual a professor of Hebrew at the University of Porto before it too was shut down and of the Captain’s valuable original research into the origins and social history of the Jews of Northen Portugal

She spoke of the Captain’s courage in continuing with his life’s work despite the finacial difficulties his family faced when he was expelled from the army on spurious grounds Notwithtanding he continued to publish Halapid until 1958 an educational journal he founded to dissiminate information on the Torah Marrano history and liturgy and Jewish issues Lastly she said that the Captain’s work was misunderstood even in some Jewish communities because it did not fit preconceived notions of normative Judaism

The next speaker journalist Antonio Melo who launched a public campaign in the mid1990’s in the national newspaper O Publico to rehabilitate the Captain spoke of the Kafkaesque nature of the case of the obstinancy of the military and political ministers Barros Basto’s democratic republican leanings and association with masonry had so permeated the case that nobody wants to deal with the issue Further even though the civil police and a military tribunal had cleared the Captain of trumped up charges of immoral homosexual acts the decision by Salazar’s Interior Minister to expel him from the army in 1937 has been successively upheld after the April 25th revolution in some cases by officials who have not even bothered to read the file

After some eloquent words from rabbi Elisha Salas who is conducting return clasess for Marranos as well as services at Mekor Hayem Synagogue Isabel Barros Basto the Captain’s granddaughter expressed her pride that despite the continuus and relentless persecution of her family her grandfather’s magnificent synagogue stands as a beacon for the emerging Marrano reinassance of today

Other scheduled tertulias are “The Jews of Medieval Porto” and “Uriel da Costathe First Secular Jew”

MANUEL A LOPES ACEVEDO publisher of Lusitaniaca a trilingual publication for Canadians of Portuguese ancestry lives in Vancouver BC He spends much of his time in Portugal and was instrumental in the establishment of Ladina

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