Anita Rodriguez, Joan Ryan, & Andrea Watson
What is it like to live in a house alcoved in mystery and keep your soul as hidden as the Hebrew scroll concealed in the tiny Madonna by your front door? Or to be drawn—ghost hands guiding you to light tallow candles—to rites you don’t understand?
How does it feel to suddenly learn that your grandmother, who lived just down the road, held very different beliefs than those you were raised with? Or to see, in a flash, the significance of the symbols and mystifying objects a favorite cousin showed you but refused to explain?
And what surprises await when you set out in your car to uncover your own blood secrets, by tracing the route you suspect your umpteen-times-great grandfather took to a mountain village close to the one where you live to this day?
In poems laden with enigma and insight, three New Mexico writers explore the emotional and physical journeys of the secret Jews who, four centuries ago, fled to this state to escape the Inquisition and those of their descendants who have recently discovered their long-hidden roots.
Here in New Mexico, each of the three cultures—Native American, Hispanic, and Anglo—retains its unique and radical difference. Things do not merge into a blurred likeness; they do not compromise each other, or themselves, by doing so. Beneath this nexus of extremes, one can hear the descant of the Converso tradition, descendants of new converts driven from Spain and Mexico by the Inquisition who came to Nuevo Mexico and continued to practice Judaism covertly. Preserved in hiding, encoded in details, the strains of these Semitic origins resurface throwing sparks with a cryptocrystalline gleam that suffuses New Mexican traditions. In this anthology, Watson, Ryan, and Rodriguez, each a singer in her own right, combine forces to sing arias filled with blood secrets passed from mother to daughter for five centuries in a world where it is not safe to be a Jew, works testifying to the power of endurance and religious devotion. Enter these passages where sacred art meets sacred tradition with reverence and relish their polished depths. Art such as this provides solace, beauty of this caliber serving the uneasy turn of transcendence over oppression.
—Lise Goett, Leprosarium & Waiting for the Paraclete
This three-author collaboration enacts, in vibrant lapidary detail, the intersection of Jewish history and the culture of Northern New Mexico, evoking lives shaped by half-secrets and the resonance of treasures, recipes, and mysterious rituals handed down from generations of mothers to daughters. A silver goblet stored in an antique cabinet, a pinch of orange peel or almond paste added to a dish, a rubied locket with its secret key, a six-point star sewn into a hem, all hint at suppressed custom and ritual, each adding another facet to the jeweled expanse of this book.
The two poem-sequences each juxtapose a family living through the Spanish Inquisition with contemporary Christian descendants living in the New World, creating compelling personae in Rena, Reina, Lia, and Magdalena. The third section chronicles its author’s journey to re-connect with relatives in Mexico and possibly trace their origins back to fifteenth-century Spain. Her search ultimately leads her away from possible Jewish connections but locates her more firmly in her own ancestry and, as a third strand of the braid that weaves together Jew and Catholic, Old World and New, it sheds yet more light on the rich, sometimes-illusive ancestral memory unique to many families in Northern New Mexico.
—Leslie Ullman, The You That All Along Has Housed You
Descended from one of Taos’ founding families, Anita Rodriguez grew up on the Taos Plaza. Witness to more than eight decades of complicated and exotic cultural diversity, she always has been fascinated by the creative ways New Mexicans deal with a traumatic history and multiple religions. Her book, Coyota in the Kitchen: A Memoir of New and Old Mexico, received the New Mexico/Arizona Book Award for Best New Mexico Book and the Zia Book Award from New Mexico Press Women
Joan Ryan is the author of the poetry collection Dark Ladies & Other Avatars (3: A Taos Press, 2017). Her poems have appeared in numerous journals, including the Atlanta Review, Nimrod, The Sow’s Ear Review, Naugatuck River Review, Ekphrasis, Calyx, Cold Mountain Review, and Crab Orchard Review. She currently is working on a potpourri of love poems and recipes tentatively titled Aphrodisia.
Andrea Watson’s poetry has appeared in Ekphrasis, The Feminist Journal of Studies in Religion, The Dublin Quarterly and International Poetry Review, among others. She is co-editor of the poetry anthologies, Collecting Life: Poets on Objects Known and Imagined and Malala: Poems for Malala Yousafzai. Andrea designed and curated eighteen ekphrasis events across the United States, beginning with Braided Lives: A Collaboration Between Artists and Poets, and most recently, Take A Detour from Route 66, hosted by La Hacienda de Los Martinez, Taos, and The Homestead Museum, Los Angeles.