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Searching ”“ A Serial Novelle Chapter 17: Family History [“Paper” proof of birth]

By Patrick Cabello Hansel

As the party wound down, Angel danced one more dance with Luz. As the song melted away and they began to release their embrace, he noticed who was left in the room: Mr. Bussey, talking with Mother Light and Ana; Luz”' grandmother Dolores, and Angel”'s father, Augusto. It was nearly 11, and though tomorrow meant heavy work, Angel could tell no one felt like ending this party.

There was still an hour left in December 12, one hour to celebrate la Virgen de Guadalupe. He called to Mr. Bussey: “Hey, where can we go to keep celebrating Guadalupe on such a beautiful cold night?”

Mr. Bussey scratched his head and said, “The only place I know that”'s open is Denny”'s.”

“Denny”'s!” Angel shouted. “Do you think they celebrate Guadalupe there?”

Luz laughed. “I think it”'s the perfect place for Guadalupe Night!”

So they put on their jackets and walked outside. There were seven in all, but Mr. Bussey”'s Honda could only fit five.

“C”'mon, son”, Augusto said. “We can walk there.”

Angel looked at Luz, who nodded in her knowing way.

For the first block or so, there was silence. Not a painful silence, but one resting, in wait for revelation. When two people who love each other have not spoken for months, silence is the best first word.

“Did you know anyone else taken in the raid?” Angel asked.

“I”'m not sure. I heard some people from my old job got snatched, but you know how rumors grow.”

Angel nodded.

“Do you think it will ever stop?” he asked.

“Maybe someday, mi hijo. When the Americanos know their own history.”

“What do you mean?” Angel asked.

“Well look at how they talk like this is a problem that started a few years ago. We”'ve been coming here, hell, we”'ve been here forever. They need our labor, especially when busy with a war. Afterwards, ¡Adios! They let us in, they kick us out. Same old story.”

Angel realized that he had never talked to his father once about his journey. “Papi, how did you get here the first time?”

“I didn”'t.”

“You didn”'t? What do you mean?”

“I mean I was born here.”

“But”¦but that would make you a US citizen!” Angel said, his voice too loud for the quiet night.

“I am a US citizen.”

“But”¦but”¦ when you went back a few years ago, and had to cross the desert”¦”

Augusto stopped and turned to face his son.

“Angel, I was born here. I am a citizen. I just can”'t prove it.”

“Now I”'m really confused.”

“Let”'s keep walking. I was born in Del Rio, Texas. My mom worked as a live-in maid for a doctor”'s family in town. She got pregnant. Everyone went back and forth during those days””it was no big deal. Most of the time they didn”'t even stop you at the border””just waved at you.”

“But don”'t you have a birth certificate from Texas?”

“That”'s the problem””my Mom never got one.”

“Why?”

“It”'s a long story.”

Angel thought what story isn”'t long these days? He noticed that they were halfway to Denny”'s, and his feet were starting to get cold.

“Mom didn”'t make it to the hospital on time. Walking there made me come out faster, so she went to the house of a friend and gave birth. In those days, new mothers stayed in bed for a few days, more if they felt weak. So by the time she got up and went to the court house to get my birth certificate, she had lost her job with the doctor and her basement room in the doctor”'s house. When she asked for my birth certificate, the clerk yelled at her to go back to Mexico.”

“Did she?”

“She did. But for years, she kept trying to get my birth certificate. Never had any luck. Always told she was lying.”

“What about your Dad?”

“What about him?”

“Did he try to do something?”

Augusto shook his head slowly. Angel realized that he knew that look.

“I saw my Dad maybe once or twice growing up. He made it clear he didn”'t want much to do with us.”

“Do you know where he is, or anything about him?” Angel asked.

“All I know is his name and where he was born. Alejandro Augusto Hidalgo Perez, born in Guanajuato. Buried in Guanajuato, for all I know.”

“Did you say his last name was Hidalgo?”

“Yes”

“The same name of abuela”'s family?

“The same family.”

Angel shook his head. “It”'s almost like we”'re related to ourselves.”

“We are, son”, Augusto said, “In more ways than you can imagine.”

They reached Denny”'s with cold fingers and toes, and with the appetite that winter brings. As they opened the door, they smelled the coffee and pancakes, and saw their beloved family, blood born and spirit related, laughing and shouting at the biggest table.

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