Fig 1: Hialeah, Florida

Fig 1: Hialeah, Florida

 

My mom doesn’t like to share the fact that I was born in Hialeah. When she lied in the ambulance, going into premature labor at seven months, she turned to the paramedic and begged that she not be taken to the local Hialeah Hospital, despite it being one of the best for neonatal care in the United States. She did not want my birth certificate to read “Hialeah” in the location of my birth — not that working-class Cuban neighborhood, known by the rhyme: “Hialeah: agua y factoría.” I’ve never seen my long-form birth certificate. I do not know at what time I was born, nor does my mother, not anyone in my family. My mother suffered from preeclampsia due to her hypertension, and was unconscious for a couple days after my birth. What we do know (quite proudly), however, is that my birth certificate does not list “Hialeah,” but merely “Dade County.” But when my mother got mad, either at my ambition or my denial of my Cuban heritage, she always did remind me that I was born in Hialeah. It was the Cuban equivalent of having your mother say your full name. You see, I have no middle name because my family was tired of the paperwork: When they immigrated, Americans confused their names, filled out forms for them incorrectly, and made a difficult mess, which made all administrative matters a hassle. So when they were naturalized, they all purged their middle names for the sake of simplicity. And my name was left without one, and, of course, the -o of my father’s name, Rolando, dropped off — because as my mother always said, “Americans will forget it anyways.” Yet, all my Cuban teachers always added it back when they said my name, insisting that the paperwork must just be wrong. My entire birth rite was a consistent and careful act of purging and denying the queerness of our existence as immigrants in our lived reality. The only trace then that was left of our actual, lived culture was our place of origin — something which my mother tried to spare me the burden of. Yet, in those moments of queer friction and tension, that origin was always revealed itself with a vengeance. I always wanted a middle name, because all my American friends had them and my forms seemed always lacking, empty. Ironic, isn’t it? I suppose now I know, quite cruelly, that in a sense I always did have a middle name: “Hialeah.”

 


 

COPYRIGHT 2014

ROLAND BETANCOURT