In modern day Mexico City, a young graduate student of anthropology, Stefan Marquez Calle, hears a surprising confession from his dying aunt. He discovers that his Catholic family has hidden Jewish roots; that they are descended from a long line of secretive people in Spain called Anousim, meaning those who had been converted to Christianity against their wills. They lived overtly as Christians, while maintaining vestiges of Judaism, in fear, for centuries. Stefan, who is about to be married, sets out to discover his true identity. As his aunt had intimated before her death, there exists an ancient journal that he must find, and it is there, through the writing of his ancestor, that he becomes entangled in a distant past, and is thrown backwards in time into the world of the Spanish Inquisition.
The diary is written in the hand of Alfonso Calle, who lived in fifteenth century Seville. His family members are Conversos who keep their forbidden Jewish religion in tact and practice in hiding, despite the threat of torture, incarceration and death. A horrifying culmination occurs when Alfonso’s father is arrested and burned at the stake in a lavish Auto-de-Fe, the public execution conducted as a festival celebration under the auspices of the Dominican Order of the Roman Catholic Church. The driving force of the oppressive regime is established and ruled by the Chief Grand Inquisitor, Tomas de Torquemada, who reports directly to the joint forces of papal and royal authorities and uses every means of treachery to achieve the combined goal of a pure Catholic Spain.
In a trip to Lisbon, Alfonso meets the famous explorer of the day, Christopher Columbus, known as Cristobal Colon, who has a concealed identity, and whose convoluted signature is finally decoded and reveals that he too is a Crypto-Jew. Alfonso is sent to work as a courier at the opulent Court of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella after his father’s death. He becomes a spy and works underground for the protection of Spanish Jewry who have not converted, and for the safety of those who are Conversos, but are regularly accused of heresy, tortured and put to death. The reign of terror continues as the Inquisition grows more powerful and Torquemada plots the death and elimination of all Jews. As Expulsion looms, Cristobol Colon comes to the Court of Spain and works feverishly to acquire ships of exploration to the New World.
The Grand Inquisitor resurrects the old myth of blood libel, falsely accusing the Jews of Christian infanticide. Unrestrained hysteria and mob violence erupt in the country. Alfonso witnesses the massacre of his family. Profoundly affected, he leaves Spain in a mass exodus with hundreds of thousands of Jews, Crypto-Jews and Conversos who are herded out of the land of their birth, forced by royal decree to leave all valuables behind, and are attacked and even murdered en route by thieves for anything they might have taken with them. Captain Colon arranges to set sail on the precise day that the Jews must leave and takes as many exiles as he is able. Alfonso boards one of the caravels to escape.
For Stefan, the story is life-altering despite his initial rejection of his ties to the distant past. He and the spirit of Alfonso connect throughout the story, in dreams and illusions. Stefan uncovers the existence of people in Mexico, and throughout the world, who are still living as secret Jews, who pray in hiding and keep traditions of their maligned faith alive. Finally, in the twenty-first century, they are able to communicate online undetected and in anonymity. Based on true facts, this story has far-reaching implications to the many thousands whose heritage is traced to Judaic roots, but who have not yet come out.
Last modified on Wednesday, 26 March 2014 02:51