Anyeline Mejia is a Ph.D. student in the Latin American, Caribbean, and U.S Latino Studies department at the University at Albany.
"As I am working on my own research, I am thankful for all the authors that have paved the way for us, immigrants and second-generation children of immigrants, to feel included in the literary narratives. Our stories becoming more visible through poems, novels, short stories, and other creative platforms.
My favorite book is "This is How You Lose Her" by Junot Diaz. He has captured elements of the Dominican culture previously not found in the U.S. literary canon. He inspires me, and has provided a visibility to Dominican American youth growing up in the U.S., and I will always be grateful for it."
My zafa reminds me that writing has power
By Anyeline Mejia
The fukú sometimes acts fast and sometimes patiently, “drowning... [us] by degrees,” Díaz writes. If the fukú was unleashed during the colonization of the Western Hemisphere, the Haitian Revolution must have upset it, big time.
The Haitian Revolution created a general crisis in the entire slave system of the Western Hemisphere, which could only be resolved with its collapse (Horne 2016, 10). Thus, it is safe to say that for decades disaster after disaster have proven Haitians’ fukú. If you do not believe me, look at the political divide of the island, fukú. The Haitians have one third of the island and arguably the worst part, fukú.
In 2010, a devastating earthquake struck Haiti with a magnitude of 7.0, killing more than 160,000 Haitians and displacing 1.5 million people, fukú (Laurent 2015). Let us face it, the fukú is a demonic force that has penetrated into every country, every culture, and every family in the Americas.
Indeed, each country has their own version of the fukú. In the Dominican Republic, Yunior associates the ex-dictator Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina (1930-1961) with the fukú. The fukú ends up harming every individual with negative thoughts of Trujillo including U.S. President John F. Kennedy.
In every Dominican family there is a fukú story. Yunior’s grandfather believed the Dominican fukú resulted in the Dominican diaspora, which was Trujillo’s payback to the pueblo that betrayed him (Diaz 2007, 15). Fortunately, they say the fukú has a counter-spell name, zafa. It is unclear if it actually works, but just in case Yunior writes The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao as his own zafa. Likewise, this is my own zafa, my own counter-spell hoping to bring awareness about Dominican immigrant society as well as an end to statelessness of all individuals on the island. Of course, it is meaningless to say, I am writing from a point in the diaspora because indeed the fukú has penetrated every family, and mine was not the exception.
I am here today writing my zafa as a testament of its existence. I witnessed my family, along with other Dominican families, settle in a predominately, low-income, working class community of the Bronx escaping social, political, and economic disenfranchisement.
Throughout my childhood years, I witnessed my mother’s and aunts’ yearning for their children and family members. I, too, wished to be reunited with my siblings, and best friends. As the only child in the apartment, I received most of the love and physical affection meant for my cousins and siblings. I remember the many hugs my aunt gave me, an unusual behavior for a woman who did not show emotional affection.
My mother, like many Dominican moms, maintained two households, one in NYC and one in the Dominican Republic, on her beauty shop salary.
Reflecting on my experience, I remember the many silent holidays, where happiness was trapped across a telephone cord. My mother and I were separated for 13 years from my brother and sister, who had papers filed in 1996 and were not admitted to the United States until 2009, fukú.
Growing up, I interacted with other children whose mothers also left their Dominican hometowns in pursuit of a better future. I witnessed many conversations in the salon about the past and present times on the island. I was constantly and still am faced with the bitter consequences of migration, fukú. My sister’s teenage years vilified by family members unable to control her desire for freedom, fukú. My mother’s inability to control her from the Bronx. My brother’s freedom. Never questioned. Yet, my sister, as a young woman, was constantly policed by family members who reported my sister's every misdeed to my mother.
Even today my mother still blames herself for my sister's traumatic past. My sister’s experience is the true story of migration which is full of gendered experiences. Fukú, fukú, fukú. My family’s experience is not a representation of all Dominican women’s experiences, yet it encourages me to begin uncovering the subjugated stories of Dominican women using my zafa, my writing, to inform you of the possibility of redemption.
My zafa, the counterspell to the fukú, allowing me to bear witness of the experiences in Hispaniola, the experience of the Americas. My immigrant identity. My Dominican American identity. Living in the Nié, neither here nor there but allowing me to speak. To shake the fukú out of my home. My zafa, my writing, allowing me to voice my experience not as a cry for help, but because this zafa reminds me that writing has power. The power to fight off the curse affecting my people, the people of the Americas, and may be just may be affecting your life too.
Horne, Gerald. 2015. Confronting Black Jacobins: The U.S., the Haitian Revolution and the Origins of the Dominican Republic. New York: Monthly Review Press.
Kushner, Jacob. 2012. “Haitians Face Persecution Across Dominican Border." NACLA Report on The Americas 45(2).
Laurent, Oliver. 2015. “Haiti Earthquake: Five Years After.” TIME magazine.
The curse of the fukú americanus is the most appropriate explanation for the eternal divide of the people in the island of Hispaniola.
The fukú is the reason for the Dominican-Haitian border, for the scattered Dominicans around the world, and the everlasting marginalization of the Haitian population on the Dominican side of the island. Most importantly, without a doubt, and if you believe in this kind of stuff, the fukú is the reason for law TC168-13, where all Dominicans of Haitian descent were rendered stateless under Dominican jurisdiction. I am sure you understand now, it is the fukú. It reinforces difference and makes the people of Hispaniola live in turmoil. How else would you explain it?
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz provides an explanation for the fukú americanus. The narrator, Yunior, describes fukú as the curse and the doom of the New World. It is unclear if it was carried in the screams of the enslaved Africans or created from all the suicide resistance of the indigenous people. However, the fukú began during the “civilization” and “discovery” of the Americas. The arrival of Europeans to the island of Hispaniola, also referred to as Ground Zero of the New World, created the port of entry into the Western Hemisphere.