In 1496, to punish the Jews of Portugal who would not pay the head tax of the state, King Manuel deported nearly 2,000 Jewish children, from the ages of two to ten, to the islands of São Tomé and Príncipe straddling the Equator west of Gabon. The King had wished to colonize the islands, under Portugal’s rule, but did not want to risk the lives of Portuguese men doing so. Nevertheless a year after, the children were disposed on the islands only 600 were found alive. Some of the children attempted to retain some semblance of their Jewish heritage and religion. Even into the early 1600s Jewish practices could still be observed on the islands, but by the 18th century most of the Jewish presence had perished. A new small community was established in the 19th and 20th centuries with the arrival of a few Jewish cocoa and sugar traders. Today there are no known practicing Jews living on the islands, but there remains a clear distinction in fair skin citizens, many of whom can trace their ancestry back to the Portuguese Jews.
On July 12, 1995, an International Conference was held on the islands’ twentieth Independence Day, to commemorate the Jewish Portuguese children who were discarded on the islands in the 15th century.
Sources: Mound, Gloria. “Judaic Research Continues in Balearic"