The Jews of Spanish North Africa, 1600—1669

The question whether it is advisable that Jews should reside in those places [Oran and Mers-el-Kebir] is arguable and there are weighty considerations for and against, but even deciding affirmatively, it should not be permitted that so many should live there, for the fewer of such enemies the better.’1 This statement by Pedro Cantero Vaca, Vicario-General or head of the Catholic Church at Oran in the years 1631-1636, well reflects the conflict of impulses that characterised Spanish official attitudes, civil and ecclesiastical, to? wards the Jewish communities that were tolerated in at least five, and possibly more, of the Spanish North African coastal strongholds?Oran, Ceuta, Tangiers, Larache (Al-Araish), and Mazagan?during the seventeenth century. In general, governors and other officials accepted that the presence of Jews in these fronteras de Africa’ was, in several respects, useful to Spain; yet, at the same time, there was an almost constant pressure that Jewish

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