The lights were dim in the intimate theater that once served as a wine cellar. The air was thick; a bit warm and humid…the cool sangria not doing much to regulate my rising internal temperature. The young drummer sat on the box upon which he beat a coaxing rhythmic melody. Then the flamenco dancer assumed her position mid-stage.
She was striking. Dark hair. Smooth olive-toned skin. Full lips. Intense eyes. Tall. Well-shaped. Confident. Powerful. The fitted bodice of her black velvet dress made it difficult to ignore her full breasts, while she swished the flouncy skirt high enough to compel the voyeur to stare at her strong legs and insistent feet. She commanded respect and attention. She danced with a bold sensuality that was mesmerizing…first slowly, then faster and faster…building to what seemed to be an orgasmic crescendo.
When she finished, I was breathless. Then, as I sat there processing the nature of this particular form of Spanish culture, my husband leaned over and whispered, “I’m sorry, but I think I was just unfaithful.” I laughed and whispered back, “I don’t blame you one bit.”
* * *
My second cousin has lived in Madrid for the past fourteen years with his wife (her family is from Madrid) and two sons. A year ago I learned that the youngest son was becoming a bar mitzvah, so I invited myself to the simcha. (Yes, that’s called chutzpah!) Never having visited Spain before, sharing a family celebration and having an overseas vacation at the same time were opportunities too good to pass up.
Arriving a few days early, we had the chance to tour the city and sneak in a day-trip to Toledo as well. We took in a fabulous flamenco show, enjoyed tapas meals, and had more than enough Rioja and sangria. It’s safe to say, however, that after visiting Rome, Paris, Prague and now Madrid, I’ve had my fill of palaces, churches, cathedrals and museums. Respectfully, there’s way too much medieval and religious art all over Europe. From now on, I’ll just stick to wine and food tours, and learning about local cultures.
Frankly, I’m also a bit tired of learning about and visiting areas where Jews once lived. The stories of years of tolerance followed by an even greater number of years of persecution are exhausting. Empty synagogues are depressing. In 1492, the Inquisition caused about one hundred thousand Jews to flee Spain, even as over a quarter of a million converted to Catholicism to save their lives and families. Today it is believed that almost a quarter of the Spanish people is of Jewish descent, but less than thirty thousand self identify as Jews. I’m not quite sure why they stay.
And yet, today, in Sephardic Jewish custom, we attended a joyful morning service, Shacharit, where prayers were said and the Torah was read. The Hebrew in the prayer book was familiar and easy to follow. The Spanish speeches…not so much. But, it didn’t matter. More importantly, the bar mitzvah boy showed the same excitement and confidence that all thirteen-year-old Jewish youngsters display upon reaching this traditional milestone. And, as is the generation to generation way, the family is shepping nachas. I am ecstatic that we could be here to share it all.
* * *
Tonight we will go to a typical bar mitzvah party. My sister, brother-in-law and their kids are here too. We all will eat, drink and dance. Tomorrow we will head to Barcelona for the weekend and another adventure.
My new goal for when I get home? To learn the flamenco….