Following today’s tour a fellow redhead accosted me to ask questions about the church next to the Parroquia while we were in front of it. I thought it odd as I didn’t recall her being on the tour and her questions were previously addressed on the tour. Turns out she wasn’t but being someone who visited town “seven whole times” so she, obviously, didn’t need a book or tour to understand San Miguel.
But what caught my eye was another ginger approaching behind her that I was sure was on the tour and her whole aura screamed agitated. Knowing she laughed and was happy on the tour I assumed someone in her party took a tumble and she needed help.
Instead of inquiring about a doctor she prefaced our encounter with five mentions of she and I “being Americans”. My spidey senses were on full alert so I mentioned to her she can call us Americans, it won’t offend me, but don’t say that to Mexicans as they, like everyone from North and South America, is an American and don’t like the term referring only to those from the USA.
That politically correct aside was brushed off as she insisted one of my stories was the source of anti-Semitism in the States continuing to build to this day. I was baffled and asked which story. She was baffled I had no clue.
For the last two years I’ve told of St. Veronica’s link to a common household plant.
In a nutshell…Veronica is featured in the Parroquia as a large mural as an indigenous woman with a veil featuring Jesus’ face. Veronica is my favorite person in the Crucifixion story as no one knew who she was. She is called Veronica for the Latin word veil and I often think how brave she was to enter a crowd that hated Jesus at that point and make him more comfortable by wiping his face with her veil.
Veronica is the polar opposite of folks that simply watch the Crucifixion and do nothing so their legendary punishment is to show up at events of mass death, knowing death is coming, and, again, do nothing.
Their legend is an off-shot of the legend of a man that worked for Pontius Pilate, the official that condemned Jesus to death. At one point Jesus pauses to catch his breath while carrying the cross and the man egged Jesus on. Jesus, in turn, tells the man he’ll get his rest that afternoon (after death) but the man is condemned to walk forever making him the immortal Wandering Jew, whom we name the plant for that spreads so much.
I like telling this story as it is a nice mixture of female empowerment and plant life.
My former tour pelirojo insisted that since the man who keeps walking was Jewish it was a slap against Jews. I didn’t mention that everyone, as far as I know, in the Crucifixion story was Jewish or Roman. So I’d assume Veronica was Jewish too but I didn’t want to get tied down in logistics.
Now, I grew up in Catholic schools so my knowledge of the bible is scant, but if I had to pick a moment in Crucifixion story that puts Jews in a bad light it wasn’t Veronica. It was Pontius Pilate allowing the crowd to choose whom to free from prison, the serial killer, Barabbas, or Jesus, King of the Jews. The crowd of Jews went with Barabbas.
But I wasn’t going to get tied in these kind of details and the gal and I had a nice American to American chat.
Once home I purged the source of all information, the internet, to see if my silly plant story offended Jews in general.
I learned according to various rabbi written sites the term Wandering Jew refers to everything from a plant to a bird to a card game, none with conscious anti-Semitic origins. So I went a bit deeper and probed if the Bible was unfriendly to Jews.
Wow! Was that a path I never want to retrace. I’ve always felt one can study darkness intently and categorize the dark all you like and all you’re left with very well-organized darkness.
Basically, the new faith (Catholic Church) was hoping to bring Jews on over and wasn’t above speaking smack about the old faith. Good, if questionably ethical, marketing. Meanwhile, my Wandering Jews plants that line my front courtyard in their purple majesty breathed a sigh of relief knowing they were quite close to being yanked out of their pots.
I haven’t decided to tell the story again or not. Previous feedback has always been positive but I could never enjoy telling it again if I thought I could offend anyone of any, or no, faith. It defeats the entire point of what I do, explaining what folks do believe here in town affects what we foreigners see and experience even if we prefer to remain totally unaware.
Joseph Toone is the Historical Society’s short-story award winning author of the SMA Secrets book series. All books in the series are Amazon bestsellers in Mexican Travel and Holidays. Toone is SMA’s expert and TripAdvisor’s top ranked historical tour guide telling the stories behind what we do in today’s SMA. Visit HistoryAndCultureWalkingTours.com, and JosephTooneTours.com.