This story began over 70 years ago on a tropical island that was blessed with natural beauty, a dynamic multiracial population and a vibrant, Afro-Spanish culture but also cursed by racial and economic tension, political corruption, and a northern neighbor that often tried to control and exploit it.
It is the tale of a young man from the provinces, the 10th of 12 children, who like his older brothers, left his rural homeland to find his fortune in the island’s political and economic capital. Though he did not find his fortune he made a career in his country’s tourist industry, then in its heyday. He worked in a hotel famous as a place where a well-known northern author stayed and drank and wrote. The young man catered to visitors from the north, who sought pleasures that were forbidden back in their homeland. Some of those visitors became his friends.
After two years in the capital the young man met a young woman, 10 years his junior, who was the youngest of seven children. However, unlike the young man’s family, which lived on the island for generations, the young woman, native born, was the daughter of immigrants. Her father was a stern, imperious German architect from Bavaria and her mother was a pious, maternal Spanish housewife from the Canary Islands. Though differences in age and background and personality might have kept our two young people apart, their love eventually solved their differences and brought them together.
This was a time of political turmoil on the island, when a brutal military officer seized power from a corrupt civilian government and when charismatic rebel leaders pushed the island to the brink of revolution. But all this did not bother our young couple, which like many others did not care much for politics. The two got married and traveled north for their honeymoon, staying in a beach front hotel on an already famous southern beach. There, I am convinced, they conceived their first child, who was destined to live most of his 70 years in that part of the world. Meanwhile, his future parents returned to the island, where they settled in a working-class neighborhood located on the outskirts of the capital. There, on May 6, 1953, the woman gave birth to the couple’s first born – a boy – at 5 a.m. So began his story, a tale of revolution, exile, and a family whose son dared to disagree with them in so many ways. His is a long story, one that I am now willing to tell.
Jesse Monteagudo is a freelance writer and journalist. He has been an active member of South Florida's LGBT community for more than four decades and has served in various community organizations.