No matter what its name or provenance, it is believed that the arrival of Europeans on Hispaniola unleashed the fukú on the world, and we’ve all been in the shit ever since. Santo Domingo might be fukú’s Kilometer Zero, its port of entry, but we are all of us its children, whether we know it or not.
These words appear on the novel’s opening page as part of Yunior’s discussion of the historical origins of the fukú curse. Yunior opens the novel with a brief lesson about the Caribbean’s long history of violence. This history extends back to the end of the fifteenth century when Spanish explorers first set foot on Hispaniola, the island now shared by the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Spanish imperialists transformed this island into plantations. To provide a labor force for these plantations, the Spanish captured and transported slaves, mainly from the west coast of Africa. Europeans made similar transformations on each of the other islands in the Antillean archipelago. In the process of colonizing the Caribbean and utterly reshaping the islands’ physical landscapes, the Spanish also killed off the Tainos, a now-extinct Arawak community who were the first people to populate the Antilles. These events represent the foundational acts of violence that set the stage for how Caribbean history would unfold from the end of the sixteenth century onward. Yet as Yunior suggests, more than any other place in the Caribbean, the Dominican Republic represents “Ground Zero of the New World,” with the capital, Santo Domingo, being “Kilometer Zero.”
In this quotation, Yunior places special emphasis on the fact that the imperial violence that established the Caribbean islands as European plantation colonies continues to be felt today. He makes this point by focusing on a legendary curse known amongst Dominicans as fukú. According to legend, the fukú curse represents an occult force that arrived in the Caribbean with the slaves stolen from Africa. Yunior reminds the reader that Santo Domingo was the first place in the Caribbean where slaves arrived. As such, the Dominican capital served as the fukú curse’s “port of entry.” It didn’t take long for the use of slaves to extend to the other islands of the Caribbean as well as to the tobacco and cotton plantations of the American South. Wherever people of African descent suffered the horrific indignities of slavery, fukú followed, eventually afflicting the entirety of the New World. And just as the effects of slavery continue to haunt the present, the fukú curse remains alive and well. It is for this reason that Yunior writes: “we are all of us its children, whether we know it or not.”