You know that feeling you get when you are reading a good book and it takes you far, far away from reality? Yeah well the journey that I began on February 26 has been even better than that, it has taken deep into a wealth of ancestral information. My trip has taken me from Texas to Andalucia Spain and New Mexico then back, discovering clues to my family heritage. I have even come across scientific studies about DNA that have boggled my mind. This experience has changed me forever.
My journey began with the discovery that during in the Spanish Inquisition "The Fajardo Army" joined forces with the Catholic Monarchy, to expell the Sephardic Jews from Spain. My brother Phillip and I have researched our Sephardic Jewish heritage over the years so this took me by surprise. We even had DNA testing. How could I have missed that tidbit of information? Phillip's first thought was "Well just as our family is currently divided on family issues, I am sure we were divided back then too." I agreed. So that of course, lead to more research.
I have spent a month on google, combed through Wikipedia, reading Spanish documents then finally joined ancestry.com and a facebook group called "New Mexico Genealogical Society." I found pages and pages of information about my mother's side of the family, the Valdez and Padilla lineage. My research confirmed what I believed. My mother's side of the family, the Padilla and Valdez families arrived in New Mexico in the late 1400's early 1500's during the Spanish Inquisition.
Like any other project that I take on, I have given it my all. When I finally fall asleep after hours of research, I have intense time travel dreams. One night I fell asleep on the couch wearing some flat dangling earrings. I woke up clutching one of the earrings that had fallen off. I had been dreaming that it was my coat of arms and I was afraid of losing it. The surreal part of my life for the last month has been when I actually go out in public to meet friends for dinner.
Fortunately I have found that I am one of many Sephardic Jews that longs for information about my ancestors. One of the most informative finds came from an article I read on "The International New York Times Website" by Doreen Carvajal.
|“The Forgetting River:|
A Modern Tale of Survival,
Identity and the Inquisition.”
In her article she mentioned a book called "The Ancestor Syndrome." It describes what I had suspected all along but there were a very few people I could talk to about it.... okay 2 friends, 1 son and a brother. The book is written by a French psychologist Anne Ancelin Schützenberger. She has spent decades studying what she calls the Ancestor Syndrome. Her research concludes that we're all links in a chain of many generation of our ancestors. Memories are carried in our DNA much like our physical features. We are therefore unconsciously affected by the suffering and unfinished business of our ancestors UNTIL we acknowledge the past. In other words, we revisit the events and traumas experienced by our ancestors in our lifetime, until the trauma is faced head-on and healed. I just read an article published today stating there has been research at Emory University in Atlanta that proves that memories are passed down to later generations through genetic switches that allow offspring to inherit the experiences of their ancestors.
Here's the issue with my dad and my sister when I was 32 in a nutshell: I had fallen on hard times after a break-up. I was a single mother of 2 young children, unable to make the mortgage payments on my a house that I had designed and built. Because I had borrowed $5,000 from my father to pave my circle driveway, his name was on the deed to the house. My sister's husband called a meeting with his attorney and over night they became proud owners of my home that I had poured my heart and soul into. Lock, stock and barrel. My daughter's piano, my china hutch, appliances, personal photos, dishes, my children's toys... everything. I had no choice but to leave my son with his father while my daughter and I moved from Austin to Amarillo so I could go to art school.
How does this relate to a trans-generational issue. We carry the memories, the traumas of our ancestors in our DNA. I had just suffered my own personal Spanish Inquisition. My father and sister have an alliance, she looks like my his side of the family, she was named after his mother and later took on his sister's name. I look like my mother's side of the family. Take that information a step further. My mother's ancestors were expelled from of Spain during the Spanish Inquisition. My father's side of the family were in cahoots with the Catholic Monarchy. The Sephardic Jews were given 4 months to leave, having to sell their homes for little or nothing, leaving all their belongings behind. My father was very pleased to help his daughter who had for years, run off to California for months at a time with her abusive boyfriend, leaving her son with our parents. Before my sister and I were born, my father's sister died at the hands of an abusive husband. My father was not going to stand by and watch that happen again. She was now settling down with someone he could trust after all, they were married in the Catholic church. So he did everything he could do to make life easy for her. I on the other hand, was practicing mysticism with crystals and incense, doing yoga, meditating and working at Whole Foods Market. Where was the good in that?
I called a truce when my niece was born by taking her a teddy bear to the hospital. After a couple of years, I moved back to Austin to be with my son again. My sister and her husband allowed me to stay with them for 2 days, then promptly on Monday morning, she took me out to rent an efficiency before my furniture had even arrived. Even at that, I just accepted this as status quo. For years the whole family participated in sweeping the reality right under the rug as I numbed myself to the atrocity of my children and I being kicked out of our home by my family. Looking back, I can see that it was an extremely dysfunctional family unit. I took my children there for holidays, never saying a word as we ate Thanksgiving dinner off of dinnerware that was once mine. Shamefully, for over 20 years I was under the impression that my sister and her husband had paid my father the $5,000 that I owed him up front as a down payment on the the house, only to find out later that they paid him a measly $100 monthly. So the obvious question from an outsider would be why would he do that for her and not me?
Then 4 years ago I rented a duplex from a friend of a friend. I poured my heart and soul into yet another house, completely remodeling it with customized mosaic floors and cabinets.. He refused to renew my lease when my 2 yr lease was up, knowing he could get more than double what I was paying. This eviction hit me like a ton of bricks. I realized that there was no logical reason for it. My rent was never late and I made massive improvements on the property. This time there were no family ties, therefore I was able to feel anger towards a landlord who had wronged me. This experience helped me to get in touch with the deep rooted family betrayal I had felt for over 20 years. I felt the pain of the unseen webs created in our family, the underlying family secrets that made it hard to deal with what was emotionally difficult to look at. By this time both of our parents had passed away. I thought it would became easier to escape from the invisible threads and the unspoken secrets and deal with the established alliances but very quickly realized dead or alive, the scenario was repeating. Now my sister was, and still is, in charge of the family estate.
My brother Phillip and I talk almost daily about healing, especially the healing of our family. We both have heart problems. Why? We are heartbroken. I'm not sure at this point what healing would even look like. I have, however, been reading a lot about about trans-generational healing and invisible loyalties within families. There is a therapeutic method called "Family Constellations" founded by Bert Hellinger that attempts to reveal a previously unrecognized systemic dynamic that spans multiple generations within the family unit. In the mind-space, where memories and images come alive, a powerful transformation occurs. You feel the presence of an ancestor whose trauma is at the root. When they are seen, acknowledged and honored for what they endured, the thread of trauma dissolves. In its place comes a feeling of love and connection.
I have experienced first hand how well this might work because it wasn't until my son was in rehab in recent years that my ex-husband realized that I had no other choice but to divorce him years ago. He had put me and his children through the same thing that he was watching his own son do to his family. He had spent all those years blaming me. These days my son is constantly taking inventory and attempting to make better choices and he and his father are now closer. Being able to openly communicate honestly seems to be key.... or there is alway Constellations Therapy!
Here's to healing the gene pool!