This week. I will be focusing on obtaining 10 more saliva samples from the remaining founding families needed, namely: Herrera, Melo, Sánchez, Bernal, Soto, Carvajal, Pérez, Olivas, Aybar, Rodríguez, Enríquez, Gutierrez, León, Araújo, and Cabral. In addition to this, I will be interviewing Mr. Valera and Mr. Agramonte, Baní's historians. I hope to receive key information in uncovering the lost identity of the Banilejos.

This afternoon I visited Mr. Valera's home once again. It is always a pleasure to speak to him and listen to what he has to say. The following is a transcription of the interview:

Yehonatán: When did the first colonizers arrived to Baní?

Mr. Valera: The first colonizers arrived circa 1510. They were Spaniards from Andalusia.

Yehonatán: Did they have any special characteristics to them?

Mr. Valera: In the rural areas of Baní, the people have a particular physiognomy. We have noticed that the people from El Llano, Bocacansta, and Sombrero have similar phenotype. However, the people from Cañafistol are very different; they usually have hawk-type noses, and upper lips, like your own. My grandfather also had his lips like yours. That is an indication of Andalusian origin.

Yehonatán: Why are the physiognomies different between these two regions?

Mr. Valera: I presume that the people from Cañafistol came at a later date, whereas those from the other rural towns came from the Canary Islands.

Yehonatán: Who were the first settlers that arrived to Baní in the 16th century?

Mr. Valera: They were connected to the Colón family and the Kings of Spain. Some of the first families to arrive were the Guerrero and Báez. The Guerrero were Andalusians and the Báez were first on the Iberian peninsula, then migrated to Hispaniola via Canary Islands. However, Báez is not a last name. It was originally a Jewish name, being "Weiss", which latter became Báez.

Yehonatán: So this name was Jewish from Germany and was latinized into Báez?

Mr. Valera: Correct! The Báez family is the root of all families in Baní.

Yehonatán: When did the Canary Islanders begin to arrive?

Mr. Valera: They arrived in 1718.

Yehonatán: Which are the founding families that arrived from the Canary Islands?

Mr. Valera: Suazo, and others that have disappeared. Let me see if I remember them. Montanel, Arrocha, and Niebla. The Niebla's came from Laguna.

Yehonatán: Did the first settlers migrate as single men or with families?

Mr. Valera: No! They came with their families. We don't see any single men in the records.

Yehonatán: Is is possible that some of them were "New Christians" or so-called "Marranos?"

Mr. Valera: We here affirm that. We have a tradition the Caraballo were connected to the Guerrero family. It is said that there is a mountain here called "Caraballo Hill," where the coffee is planted. Caraballo comes from Carvalho, a Portuguese surname. They were from the Canary Islands, and were possibly Jews. We here have a tradition in Baní that we descend from Jews and that our entrepreneurial spirit comes from our background. It is also said that the wells that were dug was due to the Jews, and not Billini, who came later.

Yehonatán: Why is Matanzas called by that name?

Mr. Valera: It is called Matanzas (slaughters) because that is where the animals were sacrificed and meat was sold. Also, the skin was used to make shoes.

Yehonatán: Which of those Andalusian or Islander families practiced endogamy?

Mr. Valera: All of them!

Yehonatán: All of them?

Mr. Valera: All of them! Baní is the town with the most extensive and exact ecclesiastical records in the country, because we are all cousins.

Yehonatán: That means that my study will demonstrate a high level of endogamy in Baní.

Mr. Valera: Yes, of course!

Yehonatán: How many matriarchs do you think we have in Baní?

Mr. Valera: There are many. It is was common that a man would marry the sister of his deceased wife and for an uncle to marry his niece. This information shocks people when I tell them, producing certain aversion to it, but that is the reality.

Yehonatán: Do you know of any records in Baní that may indicate the presence of Jews, such as Inquisition records?

Mr. Valera: I saw a baptismal record in 1697 where it mentions Don Juan Ortiz, the principal officer of the Inquisition, being the godfather of the child. Therefore, the Inquisition's presence was here.

Yehonatán: Which families in Baní came from Portugal?

Mr. Valera: The Caraballo's, the Bentacourt's, the Decena's, and the Araújo's.

Yehonatán: Do you know of any customs that the Banilejos have that may be of Jewish origin?

Mr. Valera: In the Juzgado de Paz archives, it mentions that the midwives would circumcise the male children. This is mentioned there because of the cases where a child may be at risk of death and the ritual to be performed may be dangerous to the child.

Yehonatán: There is a tradition here of sweeping trash from the front door towards the middle. This has been identified in the Inquisition records as a Judaizing custom from Iberia. Do you know of any indications of a mezuzáh here?

Mr. Valera: I have seen in the rural areas of Baní where people still have a triangle-shaped figure on their doorposts, which is like what the Jews use. All of the rural towns of Baní where built first.


It is evident from Mr. Valera's account, that there was a strong Jewish prescence, enough to catch the eye of the Inquisition. I told him after the interview that I have been able to identify many customs of the Banilejos as Jewish customs from Iberia; he had no idea! I caught his attention and then he started to ask about specific traditions. He applauded me for my work and invited me to come again before leaving to the States. I told him that thanks to his work on genealogy (which I found at the FIU library), I was able to do my research and confirm my hypothesis.

On my way back to the hotel, I received a message from one of the subjects, inviting me to a tv interview tonight on a local channel, so that I can present my work. I hope to gather the remaining DNA samples and interviews needed through this advertisement.

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