The tiny Spanish village of Castrillo Matajudios — which means “Camp Kill Jews” — on Monday officially changed its name back to Castrillo Mota de Judios (“Jews’ Hill Camp”) following a referendum and regional government approval.
The village, with about 56 inhabitants, voted to change the name in 2014 after the mayor argued that the term was offensive and that the village should honour its Jewish origins.
“Those of us who have lived all our lives in Castrillo Matajudios don’t give it a second thought. But the moment you go elsewhere it sounds bad,” mayor Lorenzo Rodriguez told AFP in an interview.
“Nowadays when people hear Castrillo Matajudios they go, ‘What a village. They kill Jews there. You have killed Jews’,” he said.
Documents show the villages’ original name was “Jews’ Hill Camp” and that the “Kill Jews” name dates from 1627, after a 1492 Spanish edict ordering Jews to become Catholics or flee the country. Those who remained faced the Spanish inquisition, with many burned at the stake.
The name change was approved by the regional government of Castilla y Leon and published in the region’s official gazette.
Although Jews were killed in the area, researchers believe the village got its recent 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.
According to a 2008 Pew Research study, Spain was considered to be one of the most most antisemitic countries in Europe.
There are approximately 12,000 Jews residing in Spain, 290,000 in the UK, and another 478,000 in France, the Guardian reports.
Although no Jews live in the village today, many residents have ancient Jewish roots and the town’s official shield includes the Star of David.
Spain’s lower house of parliament this month approved a law setting a citizenship path for the descendants of Jews who were forced to flee the country centuries ago.
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