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‘Chueta’ an insult to Jews

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The 19 April edition of the SA Jewish Report contained an article on the island of Majorca and gave an overview of inhabitants who were of Jewish ancestry and who are referred to in the article as chuetas.
by Fiona Claire Capstick, Pretoria | May 09, 2019

This is a deeply offensive term, as is the word marrano, in referring to people of Jewish descent whose history is anchored in the Iberian Peninsula and, in the case at hand, on the Balearic Isles. The repetitive use of such terms through ignorance or habit does not strip such words of their historic stench and their denigration of the Jewish people.

As a multilingual sworn translator/interpreter who has studied Spanish and has visited Spain on several occasions, , I noticed immediately in the said article that nowhere is the offensiveness of the word chueta elucidated. Ignorance is no defence.

Chueta is how a speaker of Castilian Spanish would pronounce xueta in the Majorcan variety of Spanish, which is rooted in the Catalan language of north-eastern Spain. Some etymologists believe this is derived from the Catalan word jueu/juetó, meaning “little Jew”, or “Jew boy”. Most specialists in the derivation of xueta, however, link it to the Majorcan Spanish word xulla/xuia or xuya, meaning “salted pork”.

It doesn’t take a doctorate in linguistics to know that the allusion is meant to denigrate, demean, and insult all those Jews on Majorca who were forced to convert to Christianity or who converted on the surface as a mechanism of survival. This is the same vicious mindset that gave the world the word marrano, meaning “swine”, “pig”, something dirty or, as any reputable bilingual Spanish dictionary will prove, a converted Jew. I even find the term “new Christian” in Spanish Inquisition literature revolting.

The correct way to refer to those generations of Jews who were forced to convert to Christianity during the most shameful period in Spanish history is to use the word anusim. This is derived from the Talmudic phrase averah b’ones, referring to a forced transgression. One can also use the expression crypto-Jews – those forced to practice Judaism in secrecy. The word converso, referring to forced converts, is also acceptable use in this domain.

Words are potent. We become the way we think and speak. By accepting the use of objectionable terms concerning the Jewish people, we are programming our brains to go into neutral mode and not strike back to guard our dignity and demand respect.



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