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ONE PERSON BEHIND THE NUMBERS

ONE IN THREE BIRTHS IN HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY IS TO A HISPANIC MOTHER. - FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH

The first cry from tiny Macarlie Valentina Barcenas bounces around the room. It turns her skin from corpse blue to living pink. It rolls over her mother, who is strapped to an operating table, and releases her burden. It hits her father and his eyes water. His surgical mask widens, unable to hide a proud smile. The tiny cry guides her parents' eyes together, and makes their hands squeeze together tight.

Somewhere in the time-twisted mystery of her first cry a man is fleeing Juarez, in the Mexican state of Chihuahua, ahead of Pancho Villa's marauding army. It is her great-great-grandfather, leaving land and fortune to lead his family to a safer life in Texas. Somewhere in time her grandmother is young and beautiful. She is in Kokomo, Ind., following the harvest season south to north, picking tomatoes to scrape together a living. Her handsome new husband is staring into her eyes. He promises never to leave her, and that their children will never have to work the fields. He keeps both promises, and 34 years later Macarlie's mother becomes the first person in the family to go to college. But her life is unsettled. After a decade of trying to have a baby, she has lost hope. She resigns herself to love her siblings' children as her own. But it's not the same. In October she walks into a small hut in the village of Jaral del Progreso in the Mexican state of Guanajuato. Inside a woman sweeps her body with an egg, breaks it into holy water, sees a problem, and roughly massages her belly. After the ceremony the healer declares there will be a child. On Nov. 21, back in Plant City, Macarlie's future mother looks down at two pluses on a pregnancy test and weeps.

Maybe all these things are already part of Macarlie. Maybe not. Either way, they define her. She is Mexican, born American.

Times researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report.

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BAY AREA BIRTHS

Hernando Hillsborough Pasco Pinellas
Hispanic births, 2008 157 5,623 874 1,215
Total births, 2008 1,584 17,401 5,303 9,141
Source: Florida Department of Health, Office of Vital Statistics, Florida birth certificate data

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