Chapter 2: What’s in a Name?
Matthew Dudley was pleased with the initial team meeting of the LVA Community Assist Leaders and with their enthusiastic response. He anticipated that the next meeting would provide further definition of the approach they would take. He knew the Leaders would learn quite a bit from Paloma’s Sopapilla Network and was expected that their impressions would be somewhat different from his which would only serve to make the program more responsive and effective.
Dudley realized that he could also contribute some additional perspective by discussing this new initiative with his Curmudgeon Crew. While they were generally well-off, he valued their comments and suggestions, despite the teasing he knew he was in for when he told them about his new responsibilities. He decided to use the ride to town with Ray Little Feather as a “trial run” before facing the whole group.
Not only was Ray enthusiastic about the overall concept, he had a valuable suggestion. “You say you’re looking for a Social Worker to join your Team, he asked. I know just the person. There is a woman that helps out with my youth program when she can that would be ideal. Arnetta Valencia graduated from UNM with a degree in Social Work and has worked all over the State on a free-lance basis for many different organizations. She knows her stuff and has seen it all.”
“Sounds interesting; what other qualifications does she have?”
“She’s a full-blooded Navajo. What else do you need to know, Kemosabe? Besides, she would add to your diversity goal! Seriously, Doc, my people are in desperate need of the kind of information you’re talking about, but have too much pride to ask for help, particularly from the Outside. If there were someone that was part of your program, perhaps she could work with the Tribal Health Centers and provide some much needed support.”
“That makes a lot of sense, Ray. Please ask her to call me so I can arrange for her to come to La Vida Aureo and meet Isabella and the other Team members. Let’s go inside and see what the other guys have been up to since we last met.”
As usual, the conversation among this unique group of friends was lively and interesting. It must have become a bit “rowdy” because Hector Guzman came over to the table.
“For a bunch of old guys, you sure make a lot of noise, he said. Try to hold it down so you don’t drive my serious customers away. Even the young kids that stop in here for a pastry don’t cause as much commotion. I will have to say, however, that for such an odd group, with different religions and backgrounds, you guys never seem to argue and things never really get out of hand.”
“We’ve been friends for a long time, Hector, offered Emilio. We respect each other and each other’s beliefs and views. There aren’t too many secrets among us anymore.”
“Well, I suppose it’s really just a matter of living by the idea of not doing to someone else that which is hateful to you. Once you accept that as the whole story, everything else is just commentary.”
Abe Goldman looked up from his coffee and directly at Hector Guzman. “Hector, my friend, I always knew you were an excellent baker, but I never took you for a Biblical Scholar. I’m pleased that you know the basic wisdom of Rabbi Hillel the Elder.”
“What? I am not a scholar, biblical or otherwise and I certainly don’t know no Rabbi Hillerman. That’s just what my abuela used to say to us kids when we were growing up in Mora. She taught us to treat each other with respect and not let petty things get in the way. That’s all!”
“Regardless, Hector, those are certainly words to live by. But, one day you and I must talk more about your abuela and about growing up in Mora. I’m curious about the other things she might have imparted to you. Are you certain that she said it was the whole story? Could she have said it was the whole Torah?”
“I don’t think so, but my abuela spoke an unusual form of Spanish. She was often hard to understand, but I thought that was just because she was so old.”
“I would like to talk to you more about this, if it would not be too much trouble or prying too much into your personal life, or for that matter, affect your excellent baking!”
“OK, but not today. I have a lot of baking to do for my cousin’s daughter’s quinceanera this weekend.”
Hector returned to the kitchen and the others looked at Abe. “What was that all about?” asked Ray.
Abe began. ”I have suspected for some time that our good friend Hector Guzman is actually Jewish and that quote makes me more certain. I believe his ancestors were among those Jews who fled Spain during the Inquisition and pretended to convert to Catholicism to avoid persecution, the so-called Conversos, while continuing to practice their Jewish faith in secret. Those who eventually came to New Mexico maintained that secrecy and are known as Crypto-Jews. But, over the generations, Hector’s true identity has been lost.”
“I don’t believe I’ve ever heard about this, said Dudley. It certainly never came up in all my time with the State or with any of the people I’ve ever met in my travels.”
Abe continued. “Before I go any further, I want to talk to a friend of mine who was the State Historian. He’s worked with many families to piece together stories to try to understand the history of these people and their true identity. And, I suspect that Emilio and Hakim will be able to contribute to the history of Spain about the time of Columbus. Can we talk about this in more detail in a few weeks?”
As they were leaving, Ray smiled and said, “Abe, just don’t try to tell me that these crypto Jews actually the lost tribe of Israel. I’m kinda sensitive about people claiming to be part of a tribe, particularly when there’s casino money involved!”