MUSIC ALERT:  Art transforms memory.  Nona, my grandmother may not have known that the kantikas, songs she brought here from Greece, have their origins in the Jewish-Muslim-Christian culture of medieval Spain. But I know that, and so does my “third grandma” Flory Jagoda. If you listen to the Sarajevo-born master folksinger’s rendition of adijo kerida you may hear  a song of goodbye that could be to a person or to a civilization (see below). But also, perhaps, a longing for peace and cooperation.


Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

— W.B. Yeats, 1899

Tierras Keridas means “beloved lands” in Ladino, the dialect of Spanish spoken by my grandmother and other descendants of the Jews who were expelled from Spain along with the last of its former Arab rulers in 1492. These Jews, perhaps a 10% minority within a minority, are usually referred to as “Sephardim” — from Sefarad , the Hebrew word for Spain.

The expulsion was the climax, and the Spanish Inquisition one of the fruits, of the centuries long Catholic reconquista , or re-conquest of the Iberian peninsula. For 700 years, North African Muslims ruled much of Spain, though by its end they were being driven from one remaining sliver of territory. Under Muslim rule, Al-Andalus (Spain) experienced what Jewish historians have called a “Golden Age,” an unparalleled era of tolerance and intellectual collaboration. Not everywhere, not always, and certainly not paradise, but nonetheless profoundly significant. Especially because scholars were translating classical texts –to and from Arabic, Hebrew, Latin and Greek —  Al-Andalus became an important source of the Renaissance in Europe — and inconvenient for both current politics and underlying mythologies about the origins of “Western Civilization”

…. and were I a developer, or even could program, I would turn this site into a multi-dimensional world where you could “walk” into poems, music, concepts, links, that might be useful to anyone struggling to locate themselves within a common humanity, one that offers the possibility of a better future. But I, being yours truly, have only my dreams, whatever multimedia basics I’ve picked up, and the good folks at WordPress. So welcome to Mis Tierras Keridas, and tread softly….


To Many (1985)

When you were born
I didn’t know it.
When you died
I don’t know.
You lived, in between,
out of sight of my ignorance–
out of reach of my kindness.
You didn’t mind.
This is the place for the obvious.
This is the place for the obvious.
We meet at last!
in this godforsaken place.


To Lucas (2005)

When you were born
I was there.
I remembered for what I was born.
Two years later
I am here
and you are here.
It is good to be alive.
Many years later
it will be many years later.
Always remember
that it is good to be alive.
That it is late, if not later;
that I am with you
if not here, there.

–grampa David Wolinsky