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Nuñez (Nuñes) is the family name of Portuguese Marranos, prominent in the Sephardi Diaspora, particularly in the American colonies. PEDRO NUÑEZ (1492–1577) was a geographer with a strong attachment to Judaism. Born in Alcarcer do Sal, Portugal, he was professor of mathematics at Coimbra University, and in 1529 was appointed cosmographer to the crown. Credited with being the father of modern cartography for his treatise on the sphere (1537), he was also author of De crepusculi (1542) and De arte atque ratione navigandi (1546). His complete works were published in 1592 at Basle. HENRIQUE NUÑEZ (d. 1524), who was born in Barba, was baptized in Castile. Enlisted by King John III of Portugal to inform on the *New Christian Judaizers, he provided the monarch with a list of persons secretly conforming to Judaism, even denouncing his own younger brother. When the *Marranos discovered that Henrique was the informer in their midst, they dispatched two men, André Dias and Diego Vaz, to assassinate him. Disguised in Franciscan habit, the two succeeded in stabbing Henrique to death but were apprehended, tortured into confessing, and executed. Henrique was then declared a martyr of the church and dubbed Firme Fé. Another HENRIQUE NUÑEZ, a physician by profession, headed a tiny Marrano group that found respite at *Bristol, England, from at least 1553 to 1555, at which time the new religious policies of Queen Mary Tudor forced him to seek refuge in France. HECTOR *NUÑEZ (1521–1591) was lay head of London's Marrano community during the reign of Elizabeth; through his business agents on the continent he was a source of intelligence for the queen.

BEATRICE NUÑEZ (c. 1568–1632) was martyred at the *auto-da-fé held in Madrid on July 4, 1632. Burned at the same time was ISABEL NUÑEZ ALVAREZ of Viseu, Portugal, who married Miguel Rodriguez of Madrid, and held title to one of Madrid's synagogues. On the same occasion, HELEN and VIOLANTE NUÑEZ both received sentences of life imprisonment. That year saw the death of still another member of the family, CLARA, at an auto-da-fé in Seville, Spain. More fortunate was the beautiful MARIA NUÑEZ (b. 1575 or 1579) who, together with a group of fellow-Marranos, escaped from Portugal in about 1593 aboard a ship bound for Holland. While at sea they were captured by a British vessel and diverted to London. En route, the British captain became infatuated with Maria and proposed marriage. A contemporaneus account tells of how Queen Elizabeth's curiosity was aroused and how Maria was presented to the queen, who then accompanied Maria on a tour of London. Maria insisted on rejoining her Jewish comrades, who went on to Amsterdam to found a community which was to become the major Marrano haven. Communal records of that period in Amsterdam list the marriage of a Maria Nuñez, aged 19, in August 1598, and the marriage of another Maria Nuñez, aged 23, in November 1598. Living in Amsterdam some time around 1700 was DAVID NUÑEZ-TORRES (1728), talmudist and a director of the Abi Yetomim orphanage. He was called to the Hague as ḥakham of the Spanish and Portuguese community. Actively engaged in publishing Jewish classics, he also prepared two editions of the Bible and co-edited the 1697 edition of the Shulḥan Arukh, as well as the 1702 edition of Maimonides' code. A catalog of his extensive personal library was published after his death.

The name Nuñez was also prominent in colonial America. J.R. Rosenbloom in his Biographical Dictionary of Early American Jews (1960) lists 19 members of the Nunes (Nuñez) family, mostly relatives and descendants of the Marrano SAMUEL RIBEIRO NUÑEZ, who was born in Lisbon where he became a doctor of renown and was appointed to serve the crown. Neither this appointment, however, nor his wealth guaranteed him safety from the menacing surveillance of the Inquisition. In 1732/33 he escaped on a chartered English vessel which he and his family secretly boarded while a lavish dinner party was being held at the Nuñez family mansion. Samuel was able to take some of his wealth with him to London, where hejoined a group of Jews embarking for the new settlement of Savannah, *Georgia. There Governor Oglethorpe took note of the man's eminence and went on record as acknowledging that upon landing Dr. Nuñez had saved the colony from a raging epidemic. Accordingly, Oglethorpe suggested to the colonial directors that the usual Jewish disabilities might be waived in this case. With Samuel in Georgia were his mother, ZIPPORAH (b. c. 1680), his sons DANIEL (1704–1789) and MOSES (1705–1787), and his daughter ZIPPORAH (1714–1799). Families of some of the original Jewish settlers continue to live in Savannah. Elsewhere in the Americas, the Nuñez family included ROBERT NUÑEZ (1820–1889), born in *Jamaica, a leading figure there in both business and politics and founder of the journal The Political Eagle in 1850. Active in matters of finance, from 1863 until his death he filled a variety of government posts, ranging from member of the Jamaica House of Assembly to magistrate. He also had diplomatic contacts with the United States, Spain, Norway, and Sweden.


Roth, Marranos, index; J.R. Marcus, Early American Jewry 16551790, 2 (1955), index; idem, Memoirs of American Jews 17751865, 1 (1955), index; Rosenbloom, Biogr Dict, S.V.; M. Kayserling, Geschichte der Juden in Portugal (1867), 171–2.

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.