The Inquisition trial of Luis de la Ysla gives detailed information about Ysla’s biography and life. During his movements across Europe and North Africa, he also made movements between the religions of Judaism and Christianity. At some point, he was a Christian and converted to a Jew at other points and instances. One of the greatest questions or concerns is why or the factors that led Ysla to identify as a member of the two religions at various points in life.
Ysla not only changed his religious identity but also his name as well. As a Jew, he was identified as Ysla and this changed to Luis or Abraham whenever he wanted to be identified as a Christian. Primarily, one of the factors that led him to identify as a member of various religions was the need to suit his purposes in life. At the time, unstable religious identities were common as was witnessed between the Christian denominations of Catholicism and Protestantism. Ysla was mainly a stateless person for whom the conversion and re-conversion to different religions were mainly for the purposes of daily survival. Whenever he moved into a country or city inhabited by Jews, he usually put his Jewish links to work with the primary objective of finding both employment and hospitality in his new destinations. He also converted to Christianity for almost a similar purpose. While in Alexandria, Egypt, for instance, he converted to and lived as a Christian to make inroads and establish contacts with a trading factory that had been organized by some Catalan merchants. Unfortunately, Ysla’s decision to live as a Christian did not go down well with Alexandrine Jews who treated him as an alien and a renegade.
A major conclusion that about religious identity among Iberian Jews after 1492 that can be drawn from de la Ysla’s case is that religious identity was a contentious issue as it served various purposes depending on individuals. On March 31, 1492, a decision was made by Spanish monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella, that ordered the conversion of all Jews within their kingdoms to Christianity. The Spanish monarchs gave a grace period of three months and argued that any person who would refuse to do so would be forced into exile. This was a similar decision to that of other European rulers who had tried to force Jews to convert into Christianity and ordered those who refused to do so into exile. Many Spanish Jews preferred going into exile to converting to Christianity. Thus, it is evident that religious identity was both a contentious and critical issue among Iberian Jews after 1492. Many believed that they had to stay true and connected to their Jewish roots rather than converting into the unfamiliar Christian religion. There were conflicts revolving around the issue of religious identity that paved the way for persecutions across Europe and North Africa. In an effort to make amends, in November 1492, the Spanish monarchs decided to grant a right of return to exiled Jew. However, the right of return would only be granted to the Jews if they agreed to convert to Catholicism. The decision in itself was ironical as the conversion to Christianity under which Catholicism falls, was a major reason for the Jews’ movement into exile. The Jews being stateless and the need to evade religious persecution and satisfy their individual interests decided to change their religious identities as they moved from country to country.