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Recent History of the Cortejos

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It is probable that cortejos existed in Izmir ever since the Jewish community moved to the city. Thus, Jewish cortejos must have existed for 450 years! It is known, based on interviews with former cortejos residents, that in the 1940's there were some that were still used by the community. However, during the 19th century, a significant percentage of the Jews achieved better living standards than in earlier centuries, and moved to better homes, so that the number of cortejos gradually decreased.

Early cortejos were a means of providing housing to low-income Sepheradi Jews. They shared a common language and a way of life very much shaped by religious rituals, including traditions, customs and food. Cortejos defined a type of “defensive housing” in an environment of multiple nationalities, each with its unique socio-economic and cultural life-styles.

Information given by the elderly Jews indicates that the last Jewish cortejos became vacant in the 1950's. This can be explained by the fact that, after 1948, the poorer people of the community chose to move to Israel to seek a better life. There were no people in the community who wanted to occupy such buildings.

A greater number of cortejos must have existed in Thessoloniki (now a Greek town), because more Sepheradi Jews settled there than in Izmir. Research in this town could provide greater information on the subject of cortejos.

At a later stage, it is clear that these buildings were occupied by Turkish migrants who came from the eastern part of the country. From the 1950's onwards, and especially in the 1960's and early ‘70's, the number of Turkish migrants to Izmir increased enormously, although in recent years the rate of migration seems to have leveled off. However, today the former Jewish cortejos serve the very poor Turkish migrants moving into Izmir. The rooms are rented at very low prices and the present occupants have just enough means for their survival. This means that buildings can no longer be properly maintained. Today, the conditions in the area of the cortejos can be simply defined by the characteristics of an "urban ghetto." In this regard, it may be said that the old cortejos maintain their original role even today, but with different occupants. 

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