Nichole Martinez Kruse
Throughout my life, I was drawn to Jewish culture and Jewish communities as they evoked a sense of familiarity although I was raised as Catholic. My father has German roots and my maternal side is Mexican-American. My maternal family took great pride in their Spanish heritage. Despite the fact that my family had been in Mexico for many generations, the longing for Spain never faltered.
My maternal grandmother quietly held Sephardic traditions centered around gastronomy and food preparation. My family was not in touch with our Jewish origins and we viewed grandma Rita’s practices as unique to our household in stark contrast to the traditions of my fellow Mexican-American peers in San Diego, California.
It was only upon enrolling in a religion course at university that my eyes were opened to my emotional connection to Judaism. Years later my paternal aunt, who is a passionate amateur genealogist investigated my family history. My deep sense of comfort and connection to Judaism was confirmed by Inquisition records dating back to the 1500s that proved that my Spanish ancestors were Jews who were forced to convert to Catholicism. They later fled to Mexico during Spanish colonial rule and were placed on trial there for Judaizing. Over time, out of fear of being discovered once again, my ancestors discontinued practicing Judaism but bits and pieces of the traditions remained commonplace in our lives without an understanding of their context and origin.
The action of conducting this genealogy research brought me closer to my roots than ever. It cumulated in the monumental feat of applying for Spanish citizenship via Sephardic ancestry and ultimately moving to Zaragoza, Spain. Living in Spain has been an absolute joy and my Sephardic ancestry has opened many doors for me. Here, I have peace of mind and I feel optimistic about the future. However, the absence of a Jewish community is jarring and my mission is to contribute to its redevelopment. I seek to bridge the divide between the Spanish and Sephardic people through educational programming and devising cultural activities that showcase their inseparable bond.
Now, I manage a boutique immigration firm that facilitates the procurement of Spanish and Portuguese nationality for others. I assist those like me, who have rediscovered their Jewish roots. Many of my clients have retained their Sephardic traditions, cultural identity and I enable them to complement this with the passport from Spain or Portugal to which they are entitled. I have become an expert in the nuances of this unique citizenship application process and work with people from all walks of life. Genealogy has opened the door to my past and has changed the trajectory of my family for many generations to come. I feel privileged to assist others bridge the gap between their past and their future.