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The Spanish Town Formerly Known as 'Fort Kill Jews' Just Changed Its Name

The name Castrillo Matajudios dates from 1623, after a Spanish edict more than a century earlier ordered Jews to become Catholics or flee the country.
Imagen por Ricardo Ordenez/Reuters

The tiny Spanish village of Castrillo Matajudios — a name that translates to "Fort Kill Jews" — officially changed its name on Monday back to the one it had before 1623, Castrillo Mota de Judios ("Fort Hill of the Jews"), following a referendum and regional government approval.

The small village voted to change the name in 2014 after the mayor argued that the term was offensive and that the village should honor its Jewish origins.


Some 93 percent of the 57 inhabitants turn out to have their say on the moniker, with 29 voting for the change and 19 against.

Documents show the village's original name was Castrillo Mota de Judios and that the "Kill Jews" name dates from more than a hundred years following a 1492 Spanish edict under the Inquisition ordering Jews to become Catholics or flee the country. Those who remained faced intense religious persecution that targeted non-Catholics. Many were burned at the stake.

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The name change was approved by the regional government of Castilla y Leon and published in the region's official gazette. Locals had been dealing with embarrassment and outrage on the part of visitors, and the measure should help the community finally move forward from the ugliness of its name.

Although Jews were killed in the area, researchers believe the village got its recent name from Jewish residents who converted to Catholicism and wanted to reinforce their repudiation of Judaism to convince Spanish authorities of their loyalty.

Others suspect the change might have come from a slip of the pen.

Although no Jews live in the village today, many residents have ancient Jewish roots, and the town's official shield includes the Star of David.

Spain's lower house of parliament this month approved a law setting a citizenship path for the descendants of Jews who were forced to flee the country centuries ago.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.