This evening I was invited by Father "Felo," as he is called by his parishioners. As I walked into the cathedral, I heard the women saying the "Ave María" prayer. They repeated it many times. I felt lost, as I looked for Father "Felo." At last, I saw him and he recognized me. He called me to the front and introduced me to Mrs. Soto. I told her who I was and what I needed. She then promised to help me at the end of the service. I asked the priest how long the service would be. He said about one hour and a half. I then told him that I would come back. He asked, "why are you going to do that? Are you impious or something?" I said, "no, it's fine! I will sit during the mass." He added that I would be seen by the congregation by sitting through the mass. Indeed, he knew what he was talking about.

 As the clergy entered the building, there was a band playing very rhythmic music upstairs. The music was based with a meringue rhythm. I could hear a guitar, drums, tambora (double-sided drum), and piano. There were two female vocalists. Once the clergy arrived at the altar, the priest carried incense in various directions. This reminded me of the Aharonic priests and the use of incense in the Temple. Then the priest said a prayer of confession. This is similar to the prayer said by the hazzan (cantor) on Kippur. The mass followed a sequence: a reading selection, music, then prayer. As I sat through the mass, I noticed how similar it was to the Jewish liturgy. It had dawned on me that a Jew could feel somewhat comfortable by listening to the words from the Torah and the Prophets. In fact, I was amazed that the selected readings for the Pentecost vigil came from Shemoth (Exodus) 19-20 and Yehezkel (Ezekiel) 37. These are the portions that Jews read for the Shahrith service of Shabu'oth (Feast of Weeks). I realized that a converso could easily assimilate to a nominal Catholic lifestyle, without leaving his/her Jewish customs at home. I also understood why some of them were so blatantly against the Catholic doctrine, when presented before an Inquisition tribunal. The priest said a prayer that mentioned that the Church is the "New Israel." I can see why a converso would feel irritable by Christian theology.

At the end of the service, the priest called me to the front and presented me to the congregation. He told them what I came to do and what I needed. I then read the list of 36 surnames, of the founders of Baní. I explained that I needed 30 women to interview and that I would be standing at the entrance of the church in order to hand out a quick survey. I then went to the entrance and waited for the people to approach me. As people exited the building, I waited about 1 minute, until a plethora of women, and some men approached me. The survey and pens left my hands as if I were giving away money. Some people wanted to participate, but did not hear their surnames. I thanked them for their interest. I had to repeat myself about 7 times as to why I was doing this research. Everyone seemed to be interested. I experienced the "impulse factor," a business strategy used to attract buyers. As one woman approached, two came behind her. I noticed that some of them did not want to be left out, so they reached out for a survey. One woman asked me if there was an inheritance left behind by her family. I said, there is an inheritance, but not exactly monetary. When I collected all of the pre-screening surveys, I noticed that I had less pens than what I started out with. I knew that would happen.

Finally, I had 18 women that filled out my pre-screening survey. This survey has four simple questions:

Are your maternal ancestors from Spain?
Do you have at least 3 generations in Baní?
Do you have at least 2 of the surnames on the list?
Are there cousins married in your family?

This survey allows me to choose who I want to interview and who will be selected for the DNA saliva test. I only have 30 kits, therefore, I must be very selective, since I want the DNA of the founding mothers of this town. When I analyzed the surveys, I counted 12 out of 18 that fulfill all of the criteria. I will select 5 from the other 6 as the control group, to compare their DNA with those of the 12. I am interested in finding out through the interviews if there will be a correlation between Iberian/Levantine DNA and the prevalence of Jewish customs along the maternal line.

Tomorrow I will go back to the Santa Cruz Church to do the same screening.

To be continued...

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