Probably, you will spot him as you walk through the crooked streets of the old Jewish quarter of Toledo. From a distance, he’ll appear to be a hermit from a Ribera painting who scrutinizes the Bible sitting in front of a cave, but the cave is not such. As you approach it, it becomes the family mansion of Don ‘Pepe’ . He inherited it when he labored as electrician in distant and uncharted South African mines: a palace (well attested by its noble door) composed of three large floors with windows facing two different streets. However, the building’s height is not the most impressive feature. More amazing, is the building’s depth. More than ten years ago, perhaps while repairing broken or cracked tiles, Pepe discovered the striking entrails of his parental residence: a labyrinth of caves and deep wells eager to display the silenced history of the Toledo Jewish community. Their secret synagogues and corridors without walls began to take shape bringing alive the days when the Jew Torquemada was put in charge of the Holly Spanish Inquisition. Ten long years seem a short period of time to Pepe, who has been busy clearing the building’s walls, pounding steadily with his hammer, using his pick and shovel to unveil what lies underneath its floors and to remove tons of rubble. A grueling job that even Hercules would have shied away from. But today, once the dust and smoke has been cleared, Pepe’s all-embracing archaeological truth shines in all its splendor: solid arches, columns and wells carved 523 years ago by a civilization that clung fiercely to its ancestral customs while above, on the streets of this ancient city, renounced to them to ‘save its neck’.
The Herculean work of ‘Pepe’ deserves a separate chapter. Or rather, many chapters of a book on perseverance, stubbornness, determination and faith, virtues all of them which are the mark of the great deeds performed by humble and self effacing humans.