Floricanto Press     

Sephardim

By Title

 

Bring Me More Stories: Tales of the Sephardim. By Sally Benforado. 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. The hardships faced upon leaving Spain were horrific for the Spanish Jews. Paris vividly describes the following: Although some Jews "traveled by donkey," the Jews of Spain, for the most part, literally walked out of their country. These refugees were the "scholars, the sons and daughters of families who had served their monarchs . . . shoemakers, tanners, butchers, the old, the pregnant, [and] the young." Extraordinary weather conditions, in the heat of summer, and the harshness of the land caused many to endure severe suffering. The Sephardim who had so much pride in their achievements could not believe their banishment. Traveling conditions were quite dangerous, especially in unsafe ships. Yet, many chose exile, and as Paris explains, " Those who chose exile were, for the most part, the salt-of-the-earth of Spanish Jewry: the artisans, the tradesmen, and the women—the historical carriers of religious tradition." An extraordinary civilization was lost in Iberia, probably to never again regain its glory. Bring Me More Stories stands as a living testament to a people born of their Hispanic ancestry, Jewish tradition and immigrant experience. Gloria Golden, Author of Remnants of Crypto-Jews Among Hispanic Americans.

 

 

 

Brotherhood of the Light: A novel of the Penitentes and Crypto-Jews of New Mexico. By Ray Michael Baca. 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.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heaven is Hard to Swallow =Paraísos duros de roer. Rafael Pérez Gay. 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.

 

 

 

 

Mourning for Papá: A Story of a Syrian-Jewish Family in Mexico.By Jacobo Sefamí. 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

 

 

Remnants of Crypto-Jews among Hispanic Americans. Gloria Golden. 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.

The remoteness of their hilly geography made a perfect setting for the Sephardic Jews to hide and be left alone from the shadows of the Inquisition. Living in disguise meant to behave like Christians in public and practice their Jewish customs at home, away from prying eyes. As centuries went by, that furtive life became merely partial memories and home behavioral practices that were very different from those of their Christian neighbors. Today many of the Sephardim live among the Hispanic, Mexican American and Latino, populations in the Southwest. Hidden deep in the heart of the American Southwest among the larger Hispanic population are descendants of the Sephardim, Jews from Spain and Portugal.

Five hundred years after their expulsion from Spain remnants of Judaism are still practiced within Southwestern Hispanic communities. Often unaware of their origins, conversos have revealed, through oral history, how the ancestral faith of the Crypto-Jews has been passed on from generation to generation.

 

 

The Secret of a Long Journey. By Sandra Shwayder Sánchez. 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.

“Sandra Shwayder Sánchez explores in intimate detail the experiences and emotions of her characters as she takes the reader on a vividly imagined journey from the old world to the new, through history to modern times. In poetic prose that summons all of our senses, Sánchez creates and maintains unique voices that speak through the generations and the blending of cultures and faiths.” Linda LeBlanc, author Beyond the Summit.

The Secret of a Long Journey is a lyrical, textured, beautifully told tale of lives lived and lost and secrets kept and shared. This mesmerizing page-turner takes readers on a journey from 16th century Flanders and North America’s “New Spain” to 20th century America. Steeped in history and rooted in an insightful novelist’s understanding of the complex, fragile, and sometimes nefarious emotions that embody the human psyche, Sánchez weaves the story of one family’s unwavering, intergenerational commitment to cherish and transmit its cultural and spiritual heritage. Set against the backdrop of Inquisitional Europe and the early history of the Spanish rule of the American southwest, The Secret of a Long Journey chronicles the lives of painters and healers, explorers and adventurers, lawyers and cowboys . . . Along the way, it sheds light on the intricate ways Sephardic Jews, Spanish, Native American, Mexican and Anglo cultures often collided, sometimes comingled, and ultimately coexisted, finding a way to transmute ancient traditions into contemporary secular justice and compassion. Mary Saracino, author of The Singing of Swans (Pearlsong Press 2006), Voices of the Soft-bellied Warrior (Spinsters Ink Books 2001), Finding Grace (Spinsters Ink 1999) and No Matter What (Spinsters Ink 1993). Sandra Shwayder Sánchez is a native of Denver, Colorado and a retired attorney who now resides in the small mountain town of Nederland with her husband of nearly twenty years, John Edward Sánchez.

 

 

 

The Unfortunate Passion of Hermann Broch. José María Pérez Gay. 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.

At the root of his profound literary achievement is his analytical clairvoyance concerning the crisis of values that would culminate in the ignominious catastrophes of the Second World War.