Miguel de Cervantes is thought to have Jewish ancestry (hidden in later years from the Inquisition). The route that his fictional character Don Quixote de La Mancha took through Toledo in the early 1600s went through much of what had been the Jewish Quarter (La Judería).
His ancestors are thought to have been “conversos,” Jews who converted to Catholicism in 1492 to avoid being expelled from Spain. Years later, even that wasn’t enough, so families tended to bury their Jewish history if they wanted to remain in Spain (and alive).
On many streets of the Judería were signs that told us we were on the “Route of Cervantes.” He wrote the novel while living in Toledo (which is in what is now called Castilla-La Mancha) and his presence, or the presence of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, is everywhere in the city.
Although “La Mancha” comes from the Arab Word “al-mansha,” which means “the dry land” or “wilderness,” it’s thought that Cervantes was making fun of La Mancha, which means “stain” in Spanish.
As translator John Ormsby believed:
Cervantes chose it because it was the most ordinary, prosaic, anti-romantic, and therefore unlikely place from which a chivalrous, romantic hero could originate, making Quixote seem even more absurd.
And now, since I wrote more than I had planned (always a little idle talk of this and that), no more words, just photos taken in the Judería of Toledo.
(Click the images because, as Don Quixote said, “Thou hast seen nothing yet.”)