When we named our daughter Rafaella most people knew where the origin of the name came from. Rafael is my dad's name and while I don't like "family" names - I knew too many families with everyone sharing the same name that they had to be distinguished by size. "Oh Mario. No not Big Mario, Little Mario. No not Little Mario, Lil' Mario. And don't forget Baby Mario. Baby Mario who will grow to be 6 foot 4, 205 pounds and will always be called Baby mario. I digress.
For this reason I don't like identical family names. The exception being girls named after men. To add, I like old Spanish sounding names (Cecilia, Valentina, Penelope, Francesca, Cecilia, Isabella, Sophia). So Rafaella descending from the name Rafael was perfect. The cherry on top of Perfect was that when my mom gave me the voluminous family tree book belonging to her ancestors, I realized that Rafael on the part of my mother's side was also a family name, as close as my grandfather's brother. Not only was Rafaella taking the name of her grandfather, but she would also be borrowing from her grandmother's side.
But when we told (and tell) people Rafaella's middle name, it would be an understatement to say that people are not sure sure where it comes from. It would be dead on to say that people have no bloody idea what a Rubio is.
THEM: Doesn't that mean blonde in Spanish?
THEM: Oh. That's pretty?
ME: That's not where her name comes from.
I like names that are different (no not Apples or Coco) and that have meaning, a story behind them. Once we had a first name picked we wanted the middle name to be from somewhere, preferably someone we respected or admired. Maya was in the running for a long time (Maya Angelou) but in the end it didn't quite ring. We thought about Isabel or Isabella, a name that I have always loved, and was also my mother's middle name. What I really loved next was that it also came from my grandfather's great grandmother.
Isabel, my grandfather's great grandmother, was Captain of the Cuban Liberation Army in the Independence War of the nineteenth century. A Cuban heroin and martyr, she was a nurse for the rebels fighting against Spanish rule. She has been called "wise, tender, loyal, arrogant and sympathetic." She was a liason between the Cubans living in the United States and those in Cuba. Joining forces with Jose Marti, Maximo Gomez, and Antonio Maceo, her home would become "the seat of conspiracy". She organized hospitals, was considered a radical writer and political activist. She was tough shit. And famous for her words, "I need to practice what I encourage."
From my mother's province of Pinar del Rio, she was born in a town named Guane, now named after her. A street bearing her name also lays in the town named after her. A museum and statue in that town celebrate her contribution to the fight for Cuban independence.
This is my family legacy.And how do you not pass on such a thing, even if only through name.
My grandfather, who loved to tell stories about our ancestors, filled my life with hundreds of hours of family stories. And this story of his great grandmother, Isabel Rubio, always stood out. Oh yeah, did I forget to mention her last name Rubio? My bad.
And so although I have loved the name, Isabel for quite some time, I had met too many girls with that name (working in a school and daycamp will do that to many names you love) and I wanted something more distinct. How could I honor that rich history and the other most important man in my life from whom so much of me comes from, from whom my gift of writing and need to tell stories is inspired by? Hmmmm...
What if we named her Rafaella Rubio? It had such a poetic sound and made immediate sense to me.
So I re ask myself the title of this blog - what is a Rubio? A Rubio is "candela" (fire). A spitfire who leaves comfort behind to do what she believes to be right. That was my grandfather. I'd like to believe that's a little me too... okay, Mike, maybe a lot of me. A Rubio is a fighter.
A Rubio is my daughter.
A Rubio is my daughter.
Kick ass and take names, always, Rafa. Don't back down.
Before Mike, these were my two favorite men. Now there's 3 favorite men.
Me and Abuelito Rolando in Aruba
Me and abuelito for Christmas 2005
Me and daddy when Derek (first nephew) was born
Me and daddy Christmastime