Stavans, who is also working on a travel book that profiles different places where Jews have settled in the Americas, explained that at least 400,000 Jews have immigrated to Latin America throughout different periods. At one point, he emphasized, Argentina competed with the United States as a magnet of Yiddish-speaking Eastern European Jews to such a degree, that the World Zionist Congress, which was debating where to create the Jewish state before 1948, proposed the Pampas near the Brazilian border in Argentina as a possible location.
For some Sephardic Jews, the connection with Spain, Portugal and Latin America is unlike any other. "While Spain never really replaces Jerusalem," Stavans said, "it competed with it. And people in prayers and songs talk about Spain like a place where they were all happy, where they all started… even though this is over 500 years ago. Many of the children's stories… to this day talk about a little house in Toledo, Granada, or Sevilla…" And some families, Stavans said, still pass down the key that opened the door to the house that was their last residence in Spain, becoming a metaphor and symbol for their identity.
Regardless of your background, Stavans and Sheinkin's graphic novel will illuminate you. If anything, it will compel you to see the world through Jewish and immigrant eyes, and remind you that home isn't a place, but a state of mind. And from the perspective of the descendants of possible crypto-Jews in southwestern United States, as Stavans points out poetically in the epilogue of the book, home could also be a hidden faith, a conviction, an endless search.