Francisco Maldonado de Silva was a Marrano martyr in Peru. Son of the physician Diego Nuñez de Silva (d. 1616) who was reconciled by the Inquisition in 1605, Francisco was born in Tucuman (now Argentina) and studied at the University of San Marcos in Lima, Peru. He was reared as a devout Catholic, and educated as a physician. His reading of the anti-Jewish Scrutinium Scripturarum by the apostate Pablo de *Santa Maria (Solomon ha-Levi) led him to pose questions to his father on the relative merits of Judaism and Christianity. His father acknowledged that he was still a Jew at heart, and guided his son in studying Judaism. Maldonado was persuaded to become a secret Jew. After his father's death he moved to Chile, where he married and in 1619 was appointed surgeon of the hospital in Santiago. He continued practicing Judaism, but was denounced to the Inquisition in 1627 by his two sisters, whom he had sought to convert. Despite continued efforts by the Inquisition to shake his faith, including 14 attempts by theologians to better him in religious debates, he held fast to Judaism. After each hearing he signed his testimony "Eli Nazareno, unworthy servant of the God of Israel, alias Silva." He circumcised himself with a pocketknife and scissors and resorted to long and agonizing fasts. Though suffering from numerous ailments, he used an improvised rope made from corn husks to lower himself into other cells, where he found some Judaizers whom he fortified in their faith, also converting Catholics to Judaism. Using scraps of paper and a pen made from a chicken bone, he wrote several tracts in support of his beliefs. He was burned at the stake in Lima at the conclusion of the auto-da-fé of 1639. News of his death made a profound impact on writers like Isaac *Cardozo and Daniel Levi (Miguel) de *Barrios, although the latter confuses him with Tomas Trevino de Sobremonte.
B.Lewin, Mártires y conquistadores judíos en la América Hispana (1954), 177–207; idem, El Santo Oficio en América (1950), 142–52, 182; Roth, Marranos3, index S.V. Silva; H.C. Lea, Inquisition in the Spanish Dependencies… Peru… (1908), index.
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.