Jewish Tours

Buenos Aires, Argentina

The Virtual Jewish History Tour


By Beth Weiss

Jews have achieved prominent positions in the Chilean government and other realms of influence, and have played a key part in the founding of the country, both before and after its independence in 1813. Approximately 12,500 of Chile's 15,000 Jews today reside in the capital of Santiago. Other smaller communities exist in Viņo Del Mar (Valparaiso), Concepcion, Temuco, and Valdivia. A group of Indians in the south, the Iglesia Israelita, observe many Jewish customs and consider themselves to be Jewish as well.

Early 16th Century

Several of the very first explorers to Chile were accompanied by Conversos, or converted Catholic Jews secretly practicing Judaism. Legend maintains that the very first explorer in 1535, Diego de Almagro, came with a Converso by the name of Rodrigo de Orgonos. Five years later, Pedro de Valdivia, another conquistador, came with Diego Garcia de Caceres of Plasencia, Spain, who is also believed to have been a Converso. Scandals erupted in 1621 after the geneology of Caceres was traced to include many prominent families in Santiago, including the founder of the Chilean independence movement, General Jose Miguel Carrera.1 Caceres' family roots were published in a pamphlet entitled La Ovandina, but the arrival of the Inquisition at that time forbade the circulation of the pamplet, which was reprinted in 1915.

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