Festival of Santa Esterica

The Festival of Santa Esterica is a holiday that was created as a substitute for Purim by the Anusim (also known as "conversos", Sephardi Jews forced to convert to Catholicism) after their expulsion from Spain in the late 15th century. It is still celebrated today in the Latin America and Southwestern United States. The festival was themed about a fictional saint called "Esterica" who was heavily based upon Queen Esther. During the festival the New Christian women fasted for 3 days as Esther herself, her uncle Mordechai and the Jews of Persia did in the Book of Esther prior to her meeting with King Achashverosh. Although it was dangerous for the conversos to celebrate this festival due to its Jewish elements, as the Inquisition demanded no traits of their former religion be preserved, there are documents from Mexico that confirm the Festival of Esterica was held in Mexico as well. According to historian Janet Liebman Jacobs, converso women used to light candles and cook a kosher banquet with their daughters – which helped passing out knowledge of the traditional Jewish cuisine to the next generations. The public festival celebrations had become private events that were celebrated with the family indoors. The conversos had also started to honor Esther with iconographic art pieces they made in her image and held in their households. The popularity of the Festival of Santa Esterica had begun to decrease between the years 1964 to 1974 following the statements of Santa Fe Archbishop, Peter Davis, who studied the festival and had begun preaching to Hispanics who did celebrate it that they're actually practicing a Jewish holiday based on Purim and that there was no such saint called Esterica. As a result of that it is less common to find iconographic Esterica art pieces at Southwestern United States houses today in comparison to the 20th century and prior to that. In New Mexico, the art that decorated the conversos' houses with Santa Esterica were portrayed with red curtains that frame the icona.