• Shana Ritter

The Complexity of Truth

History is relayed through the perspective of the historian. The older the history the more rare it is to find a direct telling of it, harder still to find a relating of  an event that openly professes the slant from which told. James Loewen and Howard Zinn have retold what was once considered historical truths. But still, it is near impossible to find a woman’s voice from the 15<sup>th</sup> and 16<sup>th</sup> centuries (Teresa de Avila and ?)

And yet I feel I know the young woman at the center of the story I want to tell  – the diaspora from Spain in 1492. Visiting Toledo I have walked past the house she lived in, entered the balcony of the synagogue where she sat with her mother and sister. I have climbed the hill from the river to her neighborhood – pretending all the while I could not see the cars or the lit signs or people talking on cell phones. I can hear the inflections of her voice but I do not know the details of her life. The life I am creating for her, or as it often feels, unearthing for myself.

I think everyday life in any age shares common elements: family and food, beliefs and rituals, creating comfort, claiming meaning. And then crisis – threat, illness, war causes things to unravel. A weaving becomes a rope, a wedding band is traded for a meal, a brooch for passage across a river. And the truths, are they traded as well?

One account of the1490s in Iberia talks about the conquest of Granada, the granting of permission to Columbus to make his journey west, the papal bull that divided the world between Spain and Portugal, but hardly mentions the Inquisition. It is not so much that one truth directly contradicts the other but that one set of circumstances existed in the forefront and the other was only a  backdrop – to whoever told the story. A lot like family stories where we are at the center and our siblings all in supporting roles. The complexity of truth.

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