Belonging

Forbidden love in the tropics

Ronald C. Flores-Gunkle
10 min readMay 28, 2024

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Bronze Taíno • R. C. Flores

Antonio Marqués de Oliviera disliked his ostentatious surname, but he would never reveal that to his proud mother. Their roots reached back into the earliest years of the conquest and colonization of San Juan Bautista de Puerto Rico. His ancestors, generation after generation, were leaders in Catholic Spain’s holy colony in the Caribbean.

Well, not front-line leaders. Although bred from noble hidalgos from Spain, they slowly descended into the island’s middle alturnia: politicians, lawyers, judges, mayors, landowners, priests and comerciantes — until the Americans came, uprooted the government and the economy and the island became the poorhouse of the Caribbean.

He knew all that. His family had survived it, though many of their estates on the island were seized by American interests, the family’s coffee plantations were destroyed and cane was planted everywhere. Mountains were stripped. Wetlands were drained. The cane reached from the heights of the cordillera central to the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. Nearly every inch of the island became vast vistas of sweet grass that sucked substance from the land and its people.

When sugar failed and industrialization came, the fields were plowed and replaced with levitttowns and urbanizations and condominiums. His grandfather and great uncles became…

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Ronald C. Flores-Gunkle

An aged humanist hanging on to the idea that there is hope for humankind against most current indications.