It grew out of the Casa Shalom Institute for Marrano and Anusim
Studies whose director, Gloria Mound, has helped the descendants of marranos become re-acquainted with the Jewish portion of their identity by organizing Passover celebrations and other events in Majorca, home of a considerable marrano/converso community.
These people were anusim
, a Hebrew term that refers to those with hidden Jewish roots, many of whom converted to Catholicism during the Spanish Inquisition or under other pressure from Christian conquerors.
By creating a family of Jews--including anusim
, conversos, and public Jews like Ale's great-grandfather Ytzak--who have been on the island "from the very beginning" (35), Obejas transforms that void into a narrative space in which she can construct the missing collective memories of all those in exile and diaspora.
Normally, historians prefer the more neutral term New Christian; some use the Hebrew term anusim
, meaning those who are forced (to convert to Christianity).
Rabbi Modena provides a secret sanctuary for the conversos who wish to remember their Jewish roots: "`I prefer to call them anusim
, forced ones.