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At Long Last, Small Spanish Town Changes 'Kill The Jews' Name

The small Spanish town of Castrillo Mota de Judios recently changed its name from Castrillo Matajudios, or "Fort Kill the Jews." The town approved the name change at the end of 2014 but it did not go into effect until Tuesday.
Cesar Manso
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AFP/Getty Images
The small Spanish town of Castrillo Mota de Judios recently changed its name from Castrillo Matajudios, or "Fort Kill the Jews." The town approved the name change at the end of 2014 but it did not go into effect until Tuesday.

After years of debate and a 2014 referendum, a small town in Spain has changed its name from "Castrillo Matajudios" or "Fort Kill The Jews" back to its original name of "Castrillo Mota de Judios" or "Jew's Hill Fort."

According to the Spanish wire service EFE, the town approved the name change at the end of 2014 and after getting approval from its neighboring municipalities, the name change became official on Tuesday.

The Guardian explains how the town got its name:

"Documents show the village's original name was Jews' Hill Camp and that the Kill Jews name dates from 1627. A 1492 Spanish edict ordered Jews to become Catholics or flee the country, and those who refused faced the Spanish inquisition, with many burned at the stake.

"Although Jews were killed in the area, researchers believe the village got its 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 may have come from a slip of the pen.

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

The Spanish paper El País reportedon the effort to change the name last year. The city's mayor Lorenzo Rodríguez led the charge, saying that the name was offensive to many.

Rodríguez, however, discarded the historical explanation. Instead, he told the paper, a scribe simply made a mistake 400 years ago.

The BBC reports that another city in Spain is called Valle de Matamoros or "Kill the Moors Valley." That city has no plans to change its name.

We should also note that Mexico has a sizable city with the name "Matamoros."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.

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