“Like This Afternoon Forever” by Jaime Manrique— Catholic Priests in Love

Manrique, Jaime. “Like This Afternoon Forever”, Kaylie Jones, Books, 2019.
Catholic Priests in Love
Amos Lassen
What I love about reading is that it takes me to places I might never see and introduces me to people who I will probably otherwise never meet. Writer Jaime Manrique does both and with style. We get to know two gay Catholic priests who become lovers when they meet in a seminary in war-torn Colombia.
Both Lucas (who is the son of farmers) and Ignacio (who is a descendant of the Barí indigenous people) come into the seminary because they both want to help others and  also get an education. Like so many  love stories, the two deal with the many stages of love (as well as love in prohibitive circumstance). They experience  passion, indifference, rage, and finally commit to staying together for the rest of their lives. Working together in a community largely composed of people displaced by war, Ignacio comes “upon the horrifying story of the false positives, which will put the lives of the two men in grave danger (as if the country of Colombia is not dangerous enough).
Colombia has been ruled by drug cartels and insurgents. The government has tried to gain control of the drug traffic but in the process large areas of the Amazon basin have been destroyed and populations have been decimated. This is both a love story and of murders which we have come to know as the “false positive”. Manrique exposes the  scandal of the false positive scandal (the military lured unsuspecting civilians to their deaths and then presented the bodies as defeated insurgents in order to inflate their victories) and he does so in gorgeous elegant prose. This is the story of
love and murder that Manrique based on a shocking (and little-reported in that in this country we knew nothing about). As many as 10,000 poor and mentally disabled Colombian citizens were lured into remote areas by the Colombian military, murdered, then presented to superiors as ‘guerilla fighters’ and in this way the numbers of casualties was inflated.  Then there is the story of two priests who are forced to hide their forbidden love and who discover evidence of widespread and extreme government violence.
Jaime Manrique is a recipient of Colombia’s National Poetry Award as well as a Guggenheim fellowship and it is his skill that he is able to bring the ‘false positives’ scandal into a love story. I read about the “false positives” with my mouth wide open and tears in my eyes and while I closed my mouth when reading about Ignacio and Lucas, the tears remained. These were tears because of the beauty of their relationship and their love for each other and the bravery that they shared and showed. Here
is a very powerful story about religion, poverty, sexuality, love and bravery that is quite an intense but necessary read. It is a quick read in which we can see ourselves as well as those we have chosen not to see. (You might have to ponder that thought a bit but once you read, “Like This Afternoon Forever”, you will understand.  This is a wonderful gay novel but even more than that it is a wonderful novel without that specification.

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