Today’s Jewish Treat brings you the strange tale of Jose Diaz Pimienta (1688-1720) who was burned at the stake in an auto-de-fete in Cadiz (Spain) on July 25, 1720. Although born to Catholic parents and killed while professing the Catholic faith, he was, nevertheless, a victim of the Spanish Inquisition, because he had undergone a Jewish conversion during his lifetime.

Born in Cuba, Pimienta chose to become a monk–but ran away from the monastery while still a novice. Shortly thereafter, he presented the local Bishop with a forged baptismal certificate (he was underage) in order to become an ordained priest. He was assigned to Vera Cruz and then recalled to Havana when his lie was discovered. Pimienta’s life story continued in and out of various religious positions and running minor con jobs (even pirating).

Pimienta first made contact with the Curacao Jewish community, according to his confession to the Inquisition, when he claimed to be a descendant of Marranos after hearing that the Jews were financially generous to marranos who returned to Judaism. He soon found out that the reward story was not true. Nevertheless, Pimienta converted to Judaism and married. Alas, it was not long before the restless Pimienta once again took to sea.

Captured by pirates, Pimienta was released in Jamaica, where he revealed his lack of any real religious conviction–he baptized two of the local Jewish children. He fled Jamaica in duress but eventually turned himself in to the Inquisition.

Pimienta then escaped from his Inquisitors, but was caught, shortly thereafter, trying to arrange a meeting with Jews. He told the Inquisition that he was trying to contact Jews in order to take vengence on the Jews of Caracao who, he claimed, had forcibly circumcised him. Eventually, however, he admitted to converting to Judaism and refused to recant. It was only on July 24, 1720, that Pimienta called for a priest and voluntarily returned to Catholicism. As a reward for his repentance, he was garroted before being burned.

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