Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Spanish village named ‘Jew killing’ considers official name change

The seal of Castrillo Matajudios

The seal of Castrillo Matajudios

The small, but proud village of Castrillo Matajudios, loosely translated as Little Fortress of Jew Killing, is considering a name change. Probably a good idea.

Castrillo Matajudios, population 71, located in Northern Spain near Leon, has borne the name since the expulsion of the Jews from Spain at the end of the Reconquista, but is now officially considering changing its name back to Castrillo Mota Judios, the Little Fortress of the Jews’ Hill. Also, probably a good idea.

The source of these good ideas was the town’s mayor, Lorenzo Rodriguez, though what prompted his proposal is not mentioned in the reports.

Even though the town may change its name, it is unlikely that the drinking term “killing Jews” will fade from use any time soon. The term is reportedly used all over Spain, but especially in and around Leon. “Matar Judios,”killing jews,” refers to the act of slamming down lemonade spiked with wine.

The tradition of the sangria-like drink was supposedly established to derail show trials and subsequent hangings in the Jewish quarter of Leon during Holy Week and on Good Friday. With the availability of the hard lemonade near the Jewish quarter, angry mobs could “kill Jews” by drinking, and then just stumble home. In fact, the city of Leon still holds a yearly “Matar Judios” festival on Good Friday. According to organizers they sell 40,000 gallons of spiked lemonade each year.

The tradition still leads to weird statements in the press like that of Ramon Benavides, president of the local hoteliers’ associations, whose warning about drinking too much at the festival would have the American Media up in arms, “When ‘killing Jews,’ it’s best to take it slow and keep track of how much you drink to avoid excesses and its consequences the next day.”

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