After Centuries with Its ‘Kill Jews’ Moniker, Tiny Village Votes to Change Course — but Not Everybody’s Onboard

Story by the Associated Press; curated by Dave Urbanski

MADRID (AP) — Voters in the tiny Spanish village of Castrillo Matajudios, whose name means “Camp Kill Jews,” decided Sunday that it’s time to change the name their town after hundreds of years.

Mayor Lorenzo Rodriguez said the vote was 29-19 in heavy turnout with just 56 registered voters in the village about 160 miles north of Madrid.

A car passes by the road sign at the entrance of the small Spanish town of Castrillo Matajudios. (Image source: AFP/Cesar Manso/Getty Images)

Documents show the town’s original name was Castrillo Motajudios, meaning “Jews’ Hill Camp.”

The “Kill Jews” part of the name dates from 1627, more than a century after a 1492 Spanish royal edict ordering Jews to become Catholics or flee the country. Those who remained faced the Spanish inquisition, with many burned at the stake.

Rodriguez earlier said the original name came after a number of Jewish people were massacred in nearby Castrojeriz in 1035, prompting survivors to move to the Castrillo hill. A second massacre occurred there in 1109, according to British newspaper the Independent.

A resident of the small Spanish town of Castrillo Matajudios pulls a wheelbarrow filled with branches. (Image source: AFP/Cesar Manso/Getty Images)

Although Jews were killed in the area, researchers believe the town got its current name from Jewish residents who converted to Catholicism and wanted to reinforce their repudiation of Judaism to convince Spanish authorities of their loyalty, Rodriguez said.

Others suspect the change may have come from a slip of the pen.

Castrillo Matajudios wants to attract more tourists, and townsfolk figured highlighting its Jewish past could help. Some residents are also embarrassed by the name.

The small Spanish town of Castrillo Matajudios. (Image source: AFP/Cesar Manso/Getty Images)

Although no Jews live in the town today, Rodriguez said many residents have ancient Jewish roots and the town’s official shield includes the Star of David.

Spain’s government earlier this year apologized to Jews by offering citizenship to descendants of those who were forced to flee centuries ago.

Most voters who wanted a name change are keen on reviving the “Jews’ Hill Camp” name but a final decision won’t happen until a town hall meeting is held in June.

Here’s video commentary on the issue previous to Sunday’s vote: