For 800 years, the Spanish fought the Moors in the legendary Reconquista (8th to 15th cent.). Sacred relics from that holy war survive today in the region of Andalucía in Spain: in the cities of Sevilla and Córdoba, and most gloriously, in the magnificent Alhambra of Granada.
That centuries-old conflict was won as such wars against foreign empires are usually won: people inspired by religious beliefs and fighting for their homeland—as Ernest Hemingway reminds us—can be destroyed, but never defeated. The invader faces an endless struggle, reflected in the simple statement of the Confederate soldier who explained to Union soldiers why he fought in the US Civil War: “I fight because you’re here.”
In the countryside of New Jersey, I have seen the end of the Trump Apocalypse and a vision of the future of America after it gives up its imperial aspirations.
A young man of Hispanic descent was marrying a young woman of Bengali (Muslim) heritage. It was as if one of the commanders of the armies of El Cid married a princess from the Arabian nights, or a sister from a poem by Rabindranath Tagore.
It was an event which the elders (from both sides) expected to be conducted according to ritual forms that had outlived their time and place. But the young—wiser and more vibrant than we—paid homage to the beauty of the old, while proclaiming the passage to a new, living culture of their own.
You never fully comprehend the beauty of Indian goddesses until you see a Bengali bride and her bridesmaids bedecked for a wedding. The bridesmaids wore traditional saris. The Groom and his party wore western business suits and bow ties.
The wedding guests—a testimony to the characters of the Bride and Groom—made up a rainbow of ethnicities, heritages and national origins: Spanish and African-American, Asian and Anglo-American, guests from all over the continent and across the nation, families from Puritan New England and relatives from the ancient Kingdom of New Mexico in the North American Southwest.
The first part of the wedding was all Bengali, although it was conducted by an officiant as well as a guitar player from the island of Boriquén (Puerto Rico). A reflecting mirror was placed by attendants in front of the Bride and Groom. A question was put to them: what do you see?
Which they answered:
Groom: The love of my life.
Bride: The father of my cats.
After the ceremony, Bengali food was served for all. Suddenly you understand why Christopher Columbus sailed the seas in search of a route for Indian spices.
We were delighted with the beauty of the ceremony. But I, who belonged to the Groom’s party—Caribbean, Native American, Mexican, Vietnamese—felt distant and removed. It was not only the recognition that our son was forming a new family, but also the sense that he was entering a world to which we did not belong.
Even so, he would go with our blessing.
But then the sacred African drums of the Caribbean sounded.
(to be continued)
 A.E. Hotchner, Papa Hemingway (New York: Random House, 1966), 300 and 304.