Christopher Columbus and Jamaican Jews: History into Memory
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In this chapter, Ana Sobral analyzes the figure of Christopher Columbus in U.S. American and Caribbean memories as represented in a historical novel by Steve Berry and a work between fiction and nonfiction by Edward Kritzler. In both books, Columbus’ hidden connections with Iberian Jews and/or conversos are employed as a means of memory activism and producing entangled memories in the (re-)construction of Caribbean histories and identities. On the one hand, dis-membered Jewish pasts are re-membered to promote a sense of agency, associating the “discovery of America” with the Jewish people and Jewish refugees and immigrants from Europe. On the other hand, Columbus serves as a mediating figure between Jewish Caribbean and Afro-Caribbean memories. As against anti-Semitic propaganda in twentieth-century Afro-American nationalist movements, Caribbean imaginaries celebrate Jews and “frontier outlaws” (pirates and Maroons) as subcultures of resistance and as cracks within the European colonial enterprise. With this, they promote new forms of solidarity while celebrating a Jewish identity rooted (as if native) in the Americas, which seems to contradict Columbus’ depiction as a traveling figure whose identity is characterized by movement.