I want to tell you about one of my neighbors here in Miami. His name is Ricardo. He is a 25-year old Venezuelan who came to the U.S. in the aftermath of the mess of his birth country. For those who don’t know, Venezuela is, literally, crumbling. The government has become a rigid, Stalin-esque state-sponsored producer of repression and abuse. As a result, tens of thousands of Venezuelans fled and relocated here in Miami. After Cuba, it is the Latin country with the most representation here.
Ricardo is a twin. His brother was killed in a car crash when he was eight years old. His recollection of the event are sketchy – “One minute him & I were in the passenger seat of the car, the next minute I woke up, I was in the hospital and my brother was dead.”
Ricardo is a force of nature. He is the damn friendliest, ebullient person I have ever met. He is constantly happy, energetic, persuasive and persistent. You WILL end up doing what he wants to do. And you will enjoy it. He will insist.
Ricardo is gay. He has a boyfriend and he wants to settle down and marry him. He says he is tired of hookups and guys who only want to get laid. He is extremely comfortable in his sexuality. And, just for the record, I am extremely comfortable in his sexuality. I am probably the least homophobic person in the world, and I personally feel happy for people who know who they are and refuse to let other’s opinions dissuade or influence them. We spent Monday evening in the apartment pool talking about, well, whatever we wanted to.
When Ricardo was 17, he told his mother he was gay. She responded by turning the ring she had on her finger around so that the stone faced towards the palm, and slapped him across the face with it. It left a permanent scar on his face which he covers with a beard. She called him a “Goddamn faggot.” And this all happened in a shopping mall. In public. Shamed publicly. By his mother.
So to sum up: Ricardo is a happy, friendly, gay young man who has had a life of heartbreak, rejection, loss of his twin brother, forced relocation and violence at the hands of his mother.
And he keeps smiling.
There’s a message in there for all of us.