From the exhibition:
Fractured Faiths: Spanish Judaism, The Inquisition, and New World Identities
New Mexico History Museum
Mexico, 17th century
Collection of Alicia and Isaac Backal
Photo by Jorge Pérez de Lara
These Mexican noise makers, which are miniature and would make almost no noise at all, are curious because they appear to be dual purpose. First, Sephardic Jews who secretly practiced Judaism in Catholic Mexico may have created our Mexican noisemakers as a cultural artifact and tool for memory purposes. As they are so small, they seem to be an expression of faith, but very impractical. Proper noise makers are quite large. These Mexican noisemakers could have easily been passed as Catholic "matracas" and thus not an artifact that could be used as evidence against a secret Jew. Purim is a festive Jewish holiday that celebrates the deliverance of the Jews from their enemies in the biblical Book of Esther. Purim is celebrated on the fourteenth day of the Hebrew month of Adar, which usually falls sometime in February or March. It is a joyous holiday.
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