cover image 1492: The Life and Times of Juan Cabezon of Castile

1492: The Life and Times of Juan Cabezon of Castile

Homero Aridjis, Homero Cridjis. Summit Books, $21.45 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-671-64499-4

Ambitious re-creation of a historical period overwhelms this Mexican author's love story about two conversos --converted Sephardic Jews--who are devastated by the Spanish Inquisition . Under fanatical persecution by Dominican friars, the conversos have been sequestered in ghettos, and robbed, tortured and murdered. In 1492, however, they are allowed to emigrate to Portugal. The narrator, Juan Cabezon, himself a converso , joins up with a blind man, Pero Menique, who introduces him to a group of merry rogues: a violent thief, a lascivious prostitute and a dwarf, all of whom reappear throughout the novel in different guises. Juan hides two of Pero Menique's converso friends, one of whom, Isabel de la Vega, falls in love with Juan and becomes pregnant with his child; Arijdis's depiction of their romance is exquisitely handled. But when a Dominican inquisitor is murdered, Isabel, fearing renewed persecution, vanishes. Juan's anguished search for her takes him across a Spain rocked by civil unrest. After a brief reunion, Juan decides that his destiny lies with a man met during his journey, an explorer named Cristobal Colon, and he enlists as a sailor on the Santa Maria. (June)