Spanish village votes on whether to change name that means 'Kill Jews'

Residents in Castrillo Matajudios will vote in a referendum on Sunday

A tiny Spanish village whose name means “Fort Kill Jews” is holding a referendum to determine whether residents want to change the name.

The pueblo of Castrillo Matajudios, which is situated 160 miles north of Madrid, was originally called Castrillo Motajudios, meaning “Jews' Hill Camp” - but the turbulent events of history caused the name to change.

Mayor Lorenzo Rodriguez, who submitted the proposal, said voting in the village is due to start on Sunday, with results announced that evening.

Mr Rodriguez told The Guardian: “We had no idea that this would be something that would gain worldwide attention.”

He added: “We can't carry a name that suggests we kill Jewish people when we're completely the opposite; this is a community that sprang from Jewish roots and its descendants are the descendants of Jewish people.”

Although no Jews live in the town today, many residents have ancient Jewish roots and the town's official shield includes the Star of David.

Documents suggest that the “Kill Jews” part of the moniker dates from 1627, more than a century after a 1492 Spanish edict ordering Jews to become Catholics or flee the country. Those who remained faced the Spanish inquisition, with many burned at the stake.

Although Jews were killed in the area, researchers believe the town acquired its current name from Jewish residents who converted to Catholicism and wanted to reinforce their repudiation of Judaism to convince Spanish authorities of their loyalty. Others suspect the change may have come from a slip of the pen.

Mr Rodriguez told The Guardian a potential name change would signal the villagers’ readiness to confront their town’s past.

He said that he would have no choice but to resign if residents voted against the proposal, but emphasised that any decision would be final.

"After all the worldwide attention – and all the people opining on social media – I'm just asking one thing," he said.

“We want people to respect the residents' decision. Outsiders can have their opinions but at the end of the day these 56 people have the final say in how their village is named.”

Spain's government earlier this year apologized to Jews by offering citizenship to descendants of those who were forced to flee centuries ago.

If voters decide to change the town's name, no decision would be made on a new name until a town hall meeting in June.

Additional reporting by Associated Press