Baca, Ray Michael. Brotherhood of the Light: A novel of the Penitentes and Crypto-Jews of New Mexico. 0-915745-66-6 $24.95
A novel about the un-easy and often misunderstood relationships of Crypto-Jews and Hispanos in New Mexico and their deep common roots in Spanish history--conquest and colonization--and religious faith and shared values.
Brotherhood of the Light follows the lives of three men from one family who lived in different centuries but were inexorably bound by the legacy of a cross that was brought from the Old World to the New. A relic that had come to prominence at the battle for Granada, when Spain united to expel the Moors. Descendants of Sephardic Jews who fled the Inquisition in Spain, the family joined Los Hermanos Penitentes. This secretive society of lay Catholic men in Northern New Mexico, who believe in emulating Christ’s Passion, his trial, his walk, and his suffering on the cross at the end of each Lenten season, was used for a dozen generations as a shield by the family to disguise their Crypto-Jewish identity while they struggled with the legacy bestowed upon them.
John Castillo lives in this century, and is in search of the cross which had become lost two-hundred years before. Spiritually, he is devoid of a true set of beliefs, as he is one who knows of the family’s past through inherited secret oral history. He is conflicted with who he is. Is he Catholic, or is he Jewish? Is he something because he was born into it, or is he something because he believes? The others in John’s long family history include Ramón Bernal de Castilla, a Sephardic Jew who leaves Spain in the 1590’s as a reluctant Conquistador, joins Juan de Oñate’s troops to settle Nuevo Mexico, and is the first keeper of the cross that originated in the forges of Castile. And, Andrés Castillo, a boy of thirteen in the early 1800’s taken as a slave by Navajo raiders. Having hidden the cross in a desperate attempt to save it, he returns decades later to the hiding place with his son and grandsons as a tribute to the spiritual wealth it has brought to them all.
Moving seamlessly between the past and present, weaving together the intricacies of religious fundamentalism, unwavering faith, and a true passion for knowing one's past, Ray Michael Baca takes us on a journey into the stark, beautiful desert, and the romantic valley of the Rio Grande, where Spanish dreams and Native souls have clashed and then lived as neighbors for 400 years. The text of this gripping story is written in English, Spanish and Ladino. LECTOR
Ray Michael Baca was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1959, and grew up in the small town of Bernalillo. He attended Navajo Community College in Tsaile, Arizona, and since 1981 has made his career in the business sector. On leaving New Mexico in 1988, he contended “I have been trying to make my way back home ever since.”
Other titles by and about the Sephardim:
Benforado, Sally. Bring Me More Stories: Tales of The Sephardim. ISBN: 0915745674 $22.95
In these short tales, author Benforado weaves together the oral history of a family of Sephardic Jews, from their close knit home in Turkey to their new lives in America. They are stories of a heritage that spans the globe, of centuries-old traditions transported to a different world, and of people who held tightly to the ways of their ancestors, who, like them, left their homes to settle in a strange new land. Following their exodus from Spain in 1492, Sephardic Jews were not allowed to remain on Spanish territories in North America, such as New Mexico and Colorado. Any Sephardim who chose not to leave, had to convert to Catholicism. Many chose to emigrate and leave Spain, their ancestral land forever.
Golden, Gloria. Remnants of Crypto-Jews among Hispanic Americans. Edited by Roberto Cabello-Argandoña and Yasmeen Namazie. ISBN: 978-1482786941. $24.95.
Gloria Golden, an articulate and brilliant photo-anthropologist by vocation, set to uncover the Sephardic roots in the Southwest, which was always suspected to exist, as result of the expulsion of the Sephardic Jews from Spain in 1492. Many Jews went to Portugal and Turkey, others decided to join the expeditions to the New World, particularly New Spain, as Mexico was then called. Sociologists had anecdotal evidence of the Sephardim among the Mexican American population in Colorado and New Mexico.
Pérez Gay, José María. The Unfortunate Passion of Hermann Broch. Dr. Eduardo Jiménez, Translator. ISBN: 978-0-9796457-3-0. $22.95.
Having earned its author, José María Pérez Gay, the Austrian Cross of Honor for Arts and Sciences (first class), this acclaimed, concise biography focuses on novelist Hermann Broch's preoccupation with his Austrian-Jewish heritage and examines his obsession with human morality, social and moral decadence and mass psychology, specifically, in relation to the tragic historical events of the first half of the twentieth century. In contrast to Franz Kafka's worldwide fame, the effect that Broch (and his colleague Robert Musil) had on the literary world outside Central Europe has remained, until quite recently, rather unappreciated.
Pérez Gay, Rafael. Heaven is Hard to Swallow=Paraísos duros de roer. Translated in to English by Dr. Eduardo Jiménez Mayo ISBN : 978-1-888205-29-9. $22.95..
A forlorn psychoanalyst; a cultural historian exploring the possibility of life after death; a middle-aged couple that schedules a rendezvous with a younger version of itself; a man who compensates for his phobia of death and dying with intense sadomasochistic practices; a writer who futilely explores the sexual habits and customs of Mexico City: These five short stories comprise the body of Heaven is Hard to Swallow (Paraísos duros de roer), the latest masterpiece of the phenomenal Mexican publisher, journalist and fiction writer, Rafael Pérez Gay. Here are the national commentaries of Rafael Pérez Gay on television.
Sánchez, Sandra Shwayder. The Secret of a Long Journey. Edited by Yasmeen Namazie and Roberto Cabello-Argandoña. ISBN 978-1480285033. $24.95.
The Secret of a Long Journey is the story of a cherished and dangerous secret, passed along from generation to generation through many lands and many perils: from Spain to Flanders across the ocean to Vera Cruz and up through the desert to what is now New Mexico. In magical realist style, this chronicle takes the Sephardic characters through the terrors of the Inquisition, shipwrecks and hurricanes, sandstorms and wars, lost loves and illness, all culminating when Lois Gold, a passionate court advocate for the disenfranchised, discovers the legacy of her lost grandfather.
“In The Secret of a Long Journey, Sánchez moves effortlessly through time and place with a mesmerizing plot. Generations come and go and each one propels the next. Her fascinating characters are solidly grounded in vivid natural or urban environments. Whether it is 16th century Flanders or 20th century Denver, you never lose the thread of the story, thanks to the author’s mastery of craft and her powerful imagination. The characters will lodge in your mind long after you’ve read the book . . .” Gloria DeVidas Kircheimer, author: Goodbye Evil Eye, and Amalie in Orbit.
Jacobo Sefamí Mourning for Papá: A Story of a Syrian-Jewish Family in Mexico. ISBN: 978-1-888205-31-2. $23.95.
Using the death of the father as a point of departure, the novel is divided into ten chapters, a structure that is particularly effective because the chapters correspond to the ten days that begin on the Jewish New Year and end on the Day of Pardon... Thus the mythic time of a millenarian religion such as Judaism is strategically juxtaposed to the recapturing of a family's memory that is both contemporary and unmistakably Mexican . . . The dialogues are tinged with Jewish humor -Jorge Schwartz
Each character lives simultaneously within three cultures -Jewish, Syrian, and Mexican-in a hybrid narration that produces fascinating mixtures -Lucía Guerra The representation of a state of mind throughout the novel is magnificent, particularly since he dares to portray a personal story as it pertains to both a collective consciousness and to the alienation that is caused by death... The blend of comedy and tragedy is maintained throughout the novel, in the best Jewish tradition, as established by Fernando de Rojas. I certainly enjoy the interweaving of languages and linguistic varieties. It is a pleasure to see such linguistic complexity sustained throughout the entire novel, without ever faltering. -José Kozer