Recognition for priest comes three centuries later in novel

Recognition for priest comes three centuries later in novel

Dr. Sonia Behar

Dr. Sonia Behar, high school teacher, college professor and author, has written a historical novel about Esteban de Salas, a littleknown priest and composer who is seen by many as the Father of Latin-American Baroque music.

The book, Por la Senda del Olvido, which was released in 2014 by publishing house Editorial Son Sin Clave, centers on Esteban de Salas, a Cuban priest and Baroque composer in 18th Century Cuba. His work was highly underrated throughout his life, but the impact he left on Latin music was an immense one.

The cover, a watercolor painting by St. Brendan High School alumna Laura Manuela Quesada titled Recuerdo de lo Olvidado, depicts de Salas on his “road,” or life, leaving behind his music, which is what is left of him, for Heaven. The message behind it came from the sonnet which inspired the title: even though he was alone throughout most of his life, de Salas found partnership with God after his death.

Five years ago, when Dr. Behar first began to compile evidence and historic anecdotes on de Salas, she realized the information was limited, seeing as though very few people actually knew about him. Dr. Behar read about and investigated the topic extensively before and during her writing.

She frequented the University of Miami library’s Cuban Heritage Collection, the Cuban Research Institute at FIU, reached out to contacts in Cuba, and scoured the Internet to find more information on de Salas and the time period in which he lived.

Recognition for priest comes three centuries later in novelWriting the novel was met with some challenges. The actual writing process could not begin until she did all the research and investigative work in order to keep the historic and cultural integrity of de Salas and of Cuba.

“I had to do a lot of research because I had to put myself in the time period which was very difficult to do. It was not just what was happening historically; it was the way people spoke, the way people dressed, what things were called, the materials that were used to make things…”
She combines factual events from the past found in history books to essentially create a new, reimagined life for the priest, with fictional events that take place in the story.

“One of the things that was most intriguing to me was that even though he was a priest, he was not ordained until he was 65,” Behar said.

“No one knew why, but I used that as the question to recreate a different life that was not really his.”

Dr. Behar began teaching Advanced Placement Spanish language and literature at St. Brendan High School in 1995. In 2004, she pursued and received a PhD from the University of Miami in Spanish literature in two years. Afterwards, she taught Spanish at Florida International University and French at UM before coming back to St. Brendan in 2009.

She is of Cuban heritage and Spanish is her first language, which influences her work tremendously. She has written five books, this being her third novel, but the inspiration first came from a friend who suggested she start to write books.

“It’s always been somebody else telling me, because I never knew that I could write anything. The first time I wrote something, it was because a friend of mine told me that I should write a book about a person who goes back to his country and finds that things are not the way he imagined them, which was actually my first novel, Regreso a Mi Son Sin Clave.

For this particular novel, her first influence was fellow St. Brendan teacher Alberto Martinez-Ramos, who suggested she write about de Salas because he is influential to Cuban culture and Latin-American music.

The book was released at the Books & Books in Coral Gables, where she did a book signing and reading on Sept. 9, 2014. It also can be purchased on Amazon.

Her other works include a collection of short stories and anecdotes from her town in Cuba, and her academic book, or dissertation, which focused on research about literature itself, and currently she is working on two different projects.

Katherine Rojas is a senior at St. Brendan High School.

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