The Festival of the Converts in Hervás

During a weekend in July, the Festival of the Converts in Hervás remembers its past and pays tribute to the legacy of the Jewish population that remains in the town even after their expulsion.

In 1492, the Catholic rulers signed the Edict of Granada, mandating that all the surrounding Jews who would not convert to Christianity would be expelled from Spain. Hervás was one of the villages that fell under this edict, and it had one of the biggest Jewish populations in all of Extremadura. This meant that the expulsion of all its population who would not convert resulted in a blow to the life and the economy of the town. Since 1997, the town has taken a weekend in July to celebrate the Festival of the Converts, which celebrates the historical legacy of Hervás, the displaced Jewish community, and the cultural legacy that can be felt in the town even to this day that the expelled Jews left behind.

The festival takes place in the Jewish neighborhood of Hervás, which has been declared a Conjunto Histórico-Artístico (a historic and artistic cultural site). The streets are decorated and the participants dress up to recreate a 15th century setting that is as historically accurate as possible.

Fiesta de los Conversos
Puesto en el mercado. Foto: Ayuntamiento de Hervás

The festival includes a 15th century market with numerous stalls selling artisan goods and food in an environment that precisely simulates a market from the middle ages. Around the market, many events set the scene for all the participants in the streets of the neighborhood.

The Festival of the Convents in Hervás includes a lot of participation by visitors and locals alike. Almost all of the neighbors get involved in one way or another, but the real credit should go to the actors, who make the festival feel like a time machine to the 15th century. Every year, the festival includes a play that has the Jewish population of Hervás as the main part of its story. At first, the bullring served as the stage for the play, but since 2006, the plays have been performed at the Chiquita Fountain on the banks of the Ambruz River and in the Jewish neighborhood. Around 400 of the neighbors of the town come together to act in the play, and they are directed by different performing arts professionals every year. The scripts used are always originals that were written ad-hoc for the occasion. Some of the titles include Los Conversos, La Conversa de Hervás, La Estrella de Hervás, and La Calumnia.

This festival is valuable for its historic and ethnologic context, and it is well-known throughout Spain. It is an occasion in which the population of Hervás pays homage to one of the most influential communities in its rich history.

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