Today I interviewed three women, namely, Mrs. Ysabel García, Ms. Roa Peña (Ruiz), who wishes to remain unidentified, and Mrs. Altagracia Rojas Lara.

I got lost as I searched for Mrs. García's home. I went south on Mella St, instead of north. Luckily, everything is within walking distance. She was very warm and receptive to the questions. When I explained why I was doing this investigation, she did not present any curiosity or rejection. I was able to confirm the practice of endogamous marriages in her family, in addition to other interesting traditions. Her family was not particularly superstitious. However, there is a strong indication of Jewish ancestry in her family. When asking the final questions about the Inquisition and having possible Jewish ancestors, she denied having that knowledge. After tabulating her customs/traditions in my chart, she scored 59/78. That is more than half of what I was looking for. I can't wait for the DNA results. They will determine whether a mother with Iberian or Levantine DNA transmitted those customs or if a male taught them to a spouse.

The second interview with Ms. Roa Peña began with a rough introduction. She is a lawyer that studied at the UASD university. When I gave her the consent form, I told her that I would translate it to Spanish. She insisted on reading it herself. Initially, she did not want to be recorded, videotaped,  nor tested for DNA. I told her that she could not participate. I was ready to withdraw her as a candidate. Then she added that if there were some type of benefit, she would agree to participate, but without identifying her name or taking pictures/video. She presented an interest in acquiring a foreign passport. When I told her about the law of return of the Sephardic Jews, she knew exactly what I was talking about. She said, "¡Ahora m'estás hablando!" (Now you're talking)! She did not want to admit that she was looking for an exit, but I got it out of her. She then agreed to participate fully, but without video recordings. She wanted proof of participation. Therefore, I took a picture of the consent form and handed it to her. After interviewing her, she scored 65 out of 78. I was amazed that she even knew about the Inquisition and the Jewish ancestry of the Banilejos. I did not want her knowledge of me being a Jew to pollute the interview. Interestingly, the questions that I asked were not direct questions about Jewish identity, albeit, traditions that crypto Jews practice, with or without knowledge of Jewish ancestry. I hope to demonstrate the correlation between those customs and her DNA. When I told asked her if she had heard of the family being Jewish, she denied it, and added that she preferred being a Catholic.

The final interview for the day was with Mrs. Rojas Lara. She was reluctant to being recorded and taking the DNA sample. After explaining why I needed it and what I was looking for (without saying mentioning Jewish ancestry), she accepted the terms. She was not sure of signing the consent form, since it is written in English. I told her that would translate everything and that nothing therein would compromise her identity nor her rights. She was weary of being arrested for signing the wrong documentation. She added that she only trusts me because the priest presented me at the church last Saturday night. The interview was very smooth. I was able to get through the 70 questions in less than 40 minutes. I was difficult to hear because of the loud music in the background. We met at a prayer house, where the women were gathered. I saw Ms. Roa Peña there, and another woman that I will be interviewing. At the same time, another woman whose maternal great-grandmother was surnamed "Sanchez" demonstrated interest in participating. After interviewing Mrs. Rojas Lara, I discovered that she descended from the Gonzalez, Rojas, Lara, Mejía, and Sanchez families. After tabulating the results of the interview, I realized that she scored 68 out of 78. At this point, I can infer that the more founding families that the subject has in her genealogy, the more of these customs are prevalent. When I asked her about the Inquisition and about having Jewish ancestry, she denied having that knowledge. She did say that her grandmother taught her to respect the commandments, when I asked about her view of the "Law of Moses."

Tomorrow I will return to Santo Domingo in the evening. I plan on interviewing 4 to 5 women, if time allows.

To be continued...

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  1. Quick question. Does the Algracia Rojas Lara mentioned above, also go by Altagrazia Rojas Lara? I have an mtDNA match by that name on Family Tree DNA.


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