"Antes de todo, soy judia" : the Jewish community of Monterrey, Nuevo León, México
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Nestled beneath the mountains of the northern Mexican desert, there is a community of approximately 500 Jews that has existed for over seventy years. In a city with a population of over three million, this might seem like an impossible feat. What follows is a short ethnographic study of the La Comunidad Israelita de Monterrey, the Jewish community of Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico. Based on qualitative research conducted in the summer of 2006, this thesis seeks to answer specific questions related to Jewish community survival in Latin America. Using in-depth interviews, participant observation, and archival data, this project traces the history and establishment of the community and seeks to answer the following questions: 1.) How do members of the community identify themselves, 2.) How do members maintain a strong connection to Judaism in country with a 97% non-Jewish majority, and 3.) What strategies are employed by community members in order to ensure their survival? After addressing the historical development of the community and my research methods, this thesis is divided into three major chapters which find that 1.) The community is made up of recent national and international migrants, due in part to the fact that in-migration is encouraged to increase membership size, and due in part to the lack of available Jewish partners in Monterrey, 2.) Members’ primary identification is with the state of Israel, before their county of origin or destination, and 3.) Very strict social boundaries are constructed and maintained, such as prohibition of intermarriage and in-conversions, as mechanisms for cultural and religious survival.