This article explores the relationship between Spanish colonialism and Moroccan Jews. Throughout the first half of the twentieth century, Spanish writers and politicians revived Spain’s Jewish heritage and used it to fortify cultural and political ties with Sephardic Jewish communities across the Mediterranean, and especially in Morocco. This revival of Spain’s Jewish identity has often been associated with the liberal ‘Philo-Sephardic’ movement of the early twentieth century, but, as I argue in this article, Philo-Sephardism survived until the end of the colonial period and implicated, along the way, Spaniards of all ideological stripes, from liberals to fascists. In both its liberal and fascist iterations, Philo-Sephardism was a platform for challenging France’s cultural influence among Moroccan Jews and for asserting Spain’s legitimacy as a colonial power. Philo-Sephardism was also strengthened and shaped by the extensive participation of Moroccan Jews, who contributed to the movement by collaborating with Spanish scholars and incorporating Philo-Sephardic discourses into their representations of Moroccan Jewish life. In what follows, I examine the contributions that Moroccan Jews made to Philo-Sephardism and especially to the academic and cultural institutions created under Francoism, such as the Maimonides Institute in Tetouan. I place particular emphasis on Isaac Benarroch Pinto’s novella ‘Indianos tetuaníes,’ published by the General Franco Institute for Hispano-Arab Research in 1951. This fascinating but virtually unknown literary text illustrates how some Moroccan Jews inserted themselves within Francoist culture and within Spanish imperial projects that wove together the histories of Spain, Morocco, and Latin America.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)86-110
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of North African Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2019


  • Franco
  • Jews
  • Morocco
  • Philo-Sephardism
  • Spain
  • colonialism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development
  • Political Science and International Relations


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