I’m Not Crazy, I’m Dominican… With all the Fukú that comes with it…

Dominican Flag Splatter by noizkrew
“They say it came first from Africa, carried in the screams of the enslaved; that it was the death bane of the Thainos, uttered just as one world perished and another began; that it was a demon drawn into Creation through the nightmare door that was cracked open in the Antilles. Fukú Americanus, or more colloquially, fukú-generally a curse or a doom of some kind; specifically the Curse and Doom of the New World.”
~ Junot Díaz
For several months now, actually for years, I have been in constant search of who I am. I find that people seldom understand me, and often enough I am the butt of jokes in relation to my weirdness… my understanding of the unexplained and my ridiculous obsession with love and of course babies… ok, ok… my obsession with babies is a bit odd (even I can admit that) but you have to understand my upbringing… I was surrounded by children my whole life, and ever since I left home I have had a void for the sound of laughter that often invokes very inappropriate responses from me when I see a little chubby toddler about…

So back to the point of this post. Last October just before my birthday a co-worker recommended the book The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz. I was surprised to learn that he’s a Dominican writer, especially since I have never been impressed by Dominican writers before… truth be told I have never been impressed by another Dominican period… awful thing to say I know but when you grow up the promised son of a 1st generational immigrant family you’re taught to hate where you come from… sort of a backward way of promoting you to be good and prosper… or some thing along those lines. I bought the book for myself and then I was off to Paris, the book in my bag – never to be read along the way.

About a month ago I moved to a new flat (for the billionth time this year) but I found myself in a new home I could actually call a home. I unpacked ALL of my belongings (for the first time in over 2 years) and even had some of my left over belongings sent over from Saint Louis (Thank you Marlie). All in all I was happy, relieved, and comfortable. And that was all it took – being comfortable, settled, complacent – my curse (my fukú as I would later discover) kicked in. As you know the creation of this blog comes from the seed of my nomadic life. For some reason once I have a steady job and a proper place to live with the budding of a savings account, a category 5 hurricane rears its ugly head and uproots my life to another city, state, or country – most times with a moments notice. Next thing I know I am either on a plane, bus, or my brothers pick up that just drove cross country to collect my sorry ass to return me to my mother – the source of my infliction – back to New York City.

Such a hurricane struck and within a moments notice, just as expected, I was on the verge of such a migration. But this time I said NO. I will not give in, I have worked too hard and been hungry for too long just to start over again. I will not go back, and if I ever do - it will be on my terms… My terms.
I have since been able to resist this change of climate, but the hourglass is pouring and not in my favour. In the meantime however – as I look into my options for support I am fighting off the severe depression that has wanted to kick in. I have kept busy, kept quiet, and tried to enjoy all that I have… for I do not know how much longer I will have it. As I laid in my bed one morning, taking notice of the wonderful room that I have, I looked at my bookshelf and the book I bought for my birthday. I took it out and began to read.

I am a firm believer in being where I am supposed to be, experiencing what I’m meant to experience, and meeting those who are meant to influence me for the better and try me for the worst. I was meant to read this book, but not until now – not until I had not only lost what I had (as I have before) but also lost what I could have – my future. I needed to loose my future in order to fully appreciate the past – and to see my past for what it truly is (was?) so that I can build my future with a firmer state of mind and in turn a level head on my shoulders.

I used to think my family were one of a kind – freaks in their own right who could only exist in the confines of the Bronx. I had nothing in common with them and wanted nothing to do with them – and felt that they thought the same of me. And so, as prophesied I became the prodigal son. I fled and never looked back (except for the great rescue of 2007 which became the flee of 2008). Little did I know that this was the plan for me all along but more on that later (for you superstition disbelievers – get ready). What I discovered through reading this book is that my family is not one of a kind – they are part of a greater organisation of people – the people called Dominicans – and to the horror I am one of them.

I am a Dominican. Not born but bred. Cultivated as a seed in my mind, body and soul, to germinate throughout my life and show its sprouting leaves now in the beginning of my 27th year of life (I am 26 for those of you that are confused). I will never be the Dominican that grew up in the city of Santo Domingo or the valley of Bonao, or even the one that grew up in the Bronx (like my brothers). I will be the New Yorker with Dominican roots who has a Dominican SOUL. My mind is mine, my body the world’s, but my soul belongs to Quisqueya (The Island of Española to those who follow the European charts of exploration and settlement).

I now understand my mother’s fanatic ramblings and methods, my brothers inability to respect their marriages or properly father their children, and how my extended family can extend a blind eye over injustices even though they shout the lords name every other second with such fervour that you’d think they were in the presence of the Pope (my family are in fact Evangelist). I also now understand all the secrets – the countless amount of things that are not to be spoken of, to be revealed for if they are then the world will end! And I know all families have their dark closets, but the ones held by Dominican families are in fact so dark that opening them could lead to the end of your life – or the loss of your mind.

It may seem that I am making excuses for my family’s lesser qualities, I am not. I am merely stating that I can now understand why they are that way. It would take an entire book to explain it (and I do suggest your read it). A lot of it comes from colonised mentality but also from the oppression that comes from living under a dictator. Did you know that DR (the Dominican Republic) was ruled by a ruthless, power hungry and blood thirsty Dictator by the name of Rafael Leónidas Trujillo Molina between 1930 and 1961? Did you know that he was backed by the US? I bet you didn’t know that the US also invaded DR twice in the last 100 years, our Puerto Rican neighbours didn’t fare as well during their invasion (or did they?). Well don’t feel bad, I didn’t know any of this either. I knew there were troubled times in the past, but what country doesn’t? Well I received an education and also a FURY. Why didn’t I know these things? Why was I not taught by my mother if the schools failed to mention it?

Although I was angry I had to keep perspective and not loose sight of what I was learning. My unfounded hatred for Haitians… burnt into my cranium through years of misrepresented propaganda. You would think that the Dominicans would have learnt that what Trujillo told them was wrong? The Germans have since learnt their mistakes but I guess they had the whole world nagging their finger at them. The Haitian (and Haitian-Dominican) massacres that took place from 1937 went unnoticed in White Man’s eyes (Those who know the atrocities that take place in Africa can understand why no one would care about a dead Haitian child). The American’s did finally step up but it was a joke – they gave Trujillo a financial penalty (are you fucking kidding me?). All this plus more… I am still processing… too much information, too much injustice, too much that hasn’t been told.

One of the things that struck me hard was the concept of Fukú. If you sound it out you will completely understand what it is saying and it means exactly that… damn you and all those who come after you. A generational family curse that all Dominican’s have from one source or another. It is said that those who were affiliated with Trujillo himself or has ever been victim to his wrath has a Fukú on their family name so strong that there is no outrunning it… regardless of how devout you are, how capable you are at magic yourself, or how strong the protection spells that have been placed on you.
“It’s perfectly fine if you don’t believe in these ‘superstitions.’ In fact, it’s better than fine – it’s perfect. Because no matter what you believe, Fukú believes in you.”
For years there has been a lot of secrecy in my family to do with the death of my Grandfather, the original ***** *******whom my oldest brother and countless cousins and uncles are named after… oh and a nephew too. He died in the mid 1950’s from a Hernia. That is all that was ever said and the conversation was always changed, as fast as possible while avoiding whiplash. I thought dying from a hernia was a bit ridiculous but I suppose possible in 1950’s DR so I accepted it. As I got older I began to grow in suspicion and in the summer of 2000 I visited Venezuela with my mother.

She worked for a very affluent family there for 7 years before moving to the states and having me. We stayed with this family, who have stayed in touch all these years and to this very day, and they also lived in secrecy. Their country has a dictator…errrm cough sorry President of it’s own and everyone there is a bit on edge with who they can trust and what they can say. The DR might have been a scary place in the 50’s but Venezuela is not so far behind in the new century. Anyway, they spilled the beans that the death of ******* was more than just a Hernia, it had to do with Money and apparently my family had a lot of it (explains why my mother thinks she’s a queen when we live like paupers). ******* had a chauffeur, my mother all the things she desired, and our house on a good street. But once ******* died, it all disappeared (except for the house thank God). I accepted this and passed it off as a shady business deal gone wrong – expected nothing less from my family. I was a rebellious 16 year old at the time and any reason to distance myself from my family was welcomed. My mother could continue her hernia story but in the back of my mind I called her father a shady idiot – and I could not have been more wrong, and yet so right.

This was also the beginning of my Mother’s Fukú. She would never know companionship, friendship, or love. She would have no sisters, daughters or granddaughters (my nieces are not in fact anything more than a name to us – if even that – no blood shared). All the men she loved would leave her for another, all her friends would betray her, and all her family would shun her – even her children which I admit I have taken part in. Her 7 brothers would fare equally as bad in their own way. They would never know success, would break their backs to no avail, and those who survived Trujillo’s wrath in their teens would die in their middle years once they obtained what they had lost. Greed, backstabbing, unbound family ties and disrespect for the past. A Fukú so great that my mother has actually attempted to be alone – to stop the bastard in its tracks and hopefully offer her some peace. But the thing about a Fukú is that it does not leave you alone or let you rest. In her attempt to lead a solitary life she found herself surrounded by people – none of which respect her or want anything to do with her, but who are forced to be in her presence and her in theirs. And it continues… Why a Fukú so powerful? Was it deserved? Placed by who? And why?

On Christmas Eve just passed my mother called me from New York (I am in London) to wish me happy holidays (we Dominicans celebrate the 24th not the 25th). I spoke with her for a bit about the usual things and then I asked with determination:
Why haven’t you ever told me of Trujillo?

A hesitation… then a sigh. I was told that people don’t talk of such things and better not to mention his name. Which is funny because that’s exactly what the book said. But it didn’t matter, I wanted to know about it, I wanted to know what her experience was, what she thought of it. Without even blinking (or so I assume as the conversation was over a phone) she stated that her father, my Grandfather ***** *******, was Trujillo’s _________ _______. Our house was a gift, all of our belongings were a gift. I began to sob (and my poor friend Elizabeth had to bring me tissues). My mother stated I was too sentimental and that was when I lost it. How dare you? Do you know all the terrible things he did? All the innocent lives lost? If I was there in person I might have even slapped her… and of course she would have slapped me back.

Her response? Yes and that is why my father Died.

He went in for a Hernia operation alright… but he never came out. He was in his 30’s and had a head full of secrets. Secrets that were worth keeping Quiet.

I have tried to see what I can find out about this, but online sources are scarce when it comes to Trujillo and his personnel. From what I understand – the Trujillo regime were very much in favour of not having any records, only spoken words. After all a bullet is fired regardless if the order came by mouth or by pen. I hope to obtain proof of this rank one day but for now I have to take my mother’s word for it.

The conversation quickly died out after this. It was of course a lot to take in and considering my own current situation of uncertainty I have found myself in a state of mental turmoil. I don’t know what to do, where to go, or what to think… yet that’s all I’ve been able to do… is think, perhaps too much.

My family has always said I was born with a loaf of bread under my arm. Even the mystics have claimed it. I was the one, the one who would lead the way to a better life; to break the chains and do all and see all that no other family member could. It is true that I have faired quite well compared to other members of my family. I have an education, a promising career, and have seen more of the world than was ever imaginable.

I knew that there was protection placed on me – the golden child – the first American – the ONLY one with an English name. A Guardian Angel so strong only a Saint could fill the job. And I have felt it, my whole life – I have walked away from death without a scratch, I have fought starvation, homelessness, and have survived poverty more times than I care to remember. I always land on my feet, and regardless of the adventure before me I always find open doors where I’d think there were none. But what about what I leave behind in the process? Doors that close never to reopen only sometimes to creak. I was given the gift of promise and protection that always keeps me in reach of what I seek but the Fukú is so strong that it unravels my world whenever I get close. Constantly moving… forwards, backwards, sideways… but never still. Never knowing Home, Family, or Love.

I have an amazing flat, a great group of friends, and a job that is not only a godsend but a dream come true and full of so much promise. The UK government however has changed it’s stance on immigration (the conservatives are now in power) and they don’t deem me important enough to stay in the country.

Fukú

*I have chosen to omit my grandfather’s name and his Rank. Trujillo may have been assassinated but his Fukú lives on and I don’t need any more than I already have.
I’m Not Crazy, I’m Dominican… With all the Fukú that comes with it… I’m Not Crazy, I’m Dominican… With all the Fukú that comes with it… Reviewed by Unknown on 22:11 Rating: 5

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