Jewish Tours

Buenos Aires, Argentina

The Virtual Jewish History Tour


By Beth Weiss


The Inquisition was abolished with the establishment of Chilean independence in 1818. (The first steps towards independence led by Bernard O'Higgins began in 1810 and failed due to repeated attempts of the Spanish to regain control of the country).

Many Jewish citizens or descendants of Converso families were involved in the country's struggle for independence, including General Jose Miguel Carrera, who traced his lineage back to Diego Garcia de Caceres. Carrera was nominated to be the first president of Chile, although Manuel Blanco Encalada actually became the Chilean leader. Diego Portales, father of the 1833 Chilean constitution, also claimed descent from Caceres.

Many non-Jewish leaders of the revolution had close ties with Jewish individuals. The first president of the Republic of Chile, Bernard O'Higgins, spent time in the home of Juan Albano Peyreyra, possibly of Jewish ancestry.

Since 1920, Chile has implemented a clear separation between church and state, which allows the Jews to achieve prominent status in the government and other fields. Chilean Jewish politicians included the first Jewish diplomat, Martin Levison Bloch and Daniel Schweitzer Speisky, representative to the UN as ambassador and president of the Securtiy Counsel. Speisky's brother Meguiel was a minister of justice.

A Jewish journalist by the name of Benjamin Cohen worked at El Mercurio, the country's top newspaper.

Other influential Jewish individuals contributed to Chilean trade and industry. Julio Bernstein started the first sugar refinery in Vino del Mar. Saloman Sack, a successful steel businessman, financed the University of Chile's School of Architecture. Pedro Herzl was Chile's first Jewish doctor of the new period.

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