The Melungeons blog

Thursday, March 09, 2006

A Spot of Identity

A Spot of Identity: "A SPOT OF IDENTITY

by S Levin. M.D.

Who would have thought that an obscure German anthropologist called Baelz, living in Tokyo 100 years ago, could have disturbed ashes and the memories of 500 years and unsettled the placid thoughts of a Portuguese family from Maputo living in Johannesburg today? Well, he did, in a very round about way, and it is an interesting story.

In 1885 Baelz published a paper in a German anthropological journal calling attention to a hitherto unrecorded feature among Japanese babies. Very often infants are born with a dark blue stain, a birthmark, low down on the back or legs which gradually fades and disappears over the course of about a year.He called the stain 'Mongolische Flecken'-- Mongolian Spots. During the early years of the 20th century these stains were described in many other peoples, from Negroes to North American Indians. It is also common in Asia: among Iranians, Turks, Arabs and Sephardi Jews --and also Spain and Portugal, where Sephardi Jews had been compelled by the Church to give up their identity and become Roman Catholics. Accordingly, from the 16th century, there have been few or no Jews in Spain and Portugal, but their genes, their hereditary characteristics, have continued to be transmitted, so that the Mongolian/Semitic Spot or Stain is found, fairly often in the babies of Portuguese and to a lesser degree in the Spanish. These often feature family names like da Silva, Pereira, Carvalho, Gomes, da Costa, Mendes, Barbosa, da Sousa, Hendriques and Pinto.

I have met a young Portuguese doctor, devoutly Catholic, whose two daughters, he told me, had the characteristic 'birthmarks', and he knew that he was of Jewish origin. I know of an elderly Portuguese lady who, on becoming a grandmother, asked if the newborn infant had the 'family mark'. In "


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