Columbus in Granada

by Annette Friend (Del Mar, CA)

Spain, last October,
the days always starting with rain.
We toured the slippery cobblestone
streets of Old Granada with careful steps, umbrellas crashing into
sides of alleyways lined with purple bougainvillea,
walls topped with shards of jagged blue and green glass
keeping robbers away from white washed houses.
Our guide tells us these alleys were once
the Jewish Quarter hundreds of years ago.
No Jews here now, only our name remaining.
Via de Judios.
I am lonely for them.

We take the bus into the teeming city center.
Protests continue against cutbacks in mental health,
signs fly from windows admonishing Catalons not
to secede from Spain. I am reminded of the U.S.,
our issues, our national fractures.

It is almost Columbus Day.
Here he is still venerated, unlike
America which has more mixed emotions.
Celebrations and bullfights are scheduled,
We are told the traffic will be brutal.

Columbus’s bones are buried in Granada,
(at long last with DNA evidence)
in a magnificent church where we visit,
close to Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand’s graves,
who sent him on his journey
paid for with Jewish money.

There are still those rumors that Columbus
might have been a Converso, a Jew in hiding,
born in Italy, speaking only Spanish,
his children establishing a home in Jamaica where Jews
could practice freely, a land Columbus
discovered in his travels.

How strange his bones ended up in a church
mired near Isabella who expelled all Jews from Spain
in 1492, the same year Columbus sailed the ocean blue.
Are his bones crying
forced to listen to church bells ring forever
while his soul is singing the Shema?
Or are they laughing at the joke history has played
as a once reviled hidden heretic is brought back home to Spanish ground,
surrounded by the crosses that once condemned his people
and worshipped as a hero?

Annette Friend, a retired occupational therapist and elementary school teacher, taught both Hebrew and Judaica to a wide range of students. In 2008, she was honored as the Grinspoon-Steinhardt Jewish Educator of the Year from San Diego. Her work has been published in Tidepools, Summation, and The San Diego Poetry Annual.

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Filed under American Jewry, European Jewry, history, Jewish, Jewish identity, Jewish writing, Judaism, poetry

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