A Tribute to Hamlet Batista
Hamlet, mi hermano. Where do I begin?
There was always something special about you. I can see from the outpouring of messages from our community that I’m most certainly not the only one who felt this way.
You radiated kindness, compassion, and positivity at all times. You couldn’t hurt a fly. All you knew was love.
The first time I saw you speak, I remember thinking to myself: how it is possible that there’s an SEO from the Tri-State area dropping this much knowledge, and we aren’t friends yet?
Well, we quickly fixed that. But what I didn’t know that day is how close of friends we would one day become, and how special of a bond it would be.
Our nerdy obsession with SEO was surely what built the foundation of our friendship, but it evolved into so much more than that as we got to know each other better.
Your story is just astounding. We sat on my rooftop on a very hot and sticky NYC summer day, and you told me your full history of what it was like for you to bring your family here from the Dominican Republic.
You had become a super successful digital marketer way back in the very early days of SEO, and it was a surreal and almost frightening experience for you to become that successful while living in the D.R. And all just from working on computers. Perhaps it was this experience that started your ongoing (bad) habit of never fully believing how brilliant and talented you were.
You got your U.S. Genius Visa because you were labeled an ‘Alien of Extraordinary Ability,’ and that ability was SEO. It reads as somewhat of a bizarre title to me, but at the same time, it’s absolutely fitting for you. I always said you were from another planet, after all.
So, you brought your family from the D.R. to New York City and lived on the West Side for a while – it was Hell’s Kitchen, if I remember correctly. I remember you saying you didn’t like living there. But I don’t blame you. Who likes living in Hell’s Kitchen as a family of four?
So the next step was to bring the family out to New Jersey, where you bought a home in a lovely suburban area that you referred to as “the forest” (it was most definitely not a forest).
I enjoyed that you were able to give me a brief tour of the Batista household last year. We had just finished lunch (you let me buy you a vegan lunch, and you were excited and mildly perplexed about eating so many vegetables), and were actually supposed to be working on a project. But you insisted 1) that you drive my new car around and 2) that we go drive to your house “in the forest” for a tour. And you know the rule when someone offers you a tour of their house: you can never say no.
I feel so lucky that I got to see your house and meet your wife, your kids, and your dog. You were especially excited to show me your new workstation you had set up with a ring lamp, a professional microphone, a nice big leather chair, and a perfectly positioned piece of art hanging in the background. It was just what you needed, given that you were so busy doing a superhuman number of virtual speaking engagements, webinars, podcasts, keynotes, and more, all while running your own business, leading the Python SEO community, and being an amazing father and husband at the same time.
I still don’t understand how you physically did all of it at once. (Again: I think you were from another planet.)
And I love the way we used to text all the time about our crazy schedules and always not understand how the other person did it. You would send me gifs of Wonder Woman and call me ‘La Mujer Maravilla!’ And I would reply “well, hermano, I bet you’re just automating your way out of every task and that’s how you’re able to do so many things at the same time.”
Hamlet, I’ll never forget what a caring and supportive friend you were to me. You never even thought twice about showing up for me.
I had the biggest DJ gig of my life in November of 2019, and you drove all the way from suburban New Jersey to the depths of the dark and sketchy industrial corner of Bushwick, Brooklyn to come see me play. I didn’t believe you when you said you were going to come, but you did.
You showed up to a Brooklyn nightclub wearing your signature cardigan sweater and button-up collar combination, in a room full of hipsters scantily clad in black leather clothing and dancing to dark, blasting techno music. There were lasers, there was fog, the dance floor was sticky, and there was a lot of sweat.
I remember the astounded look on your face. We stood on the mezzanine overlooking the dance floor, and you kept telling me you had never seen anything like this place in your life. You said you felt like you were in Blade Runner. I will never forget it. My friends all loved you. To this day, I can’t tell you how much it means to me that you came.
And that wasn’t the only time you came to see me play either. I would be DJing in a Manhattan bar and would be so pleasantly surprised to see my friend Hamlet appear there, again wearing his cardigan with the button-up collar. I would try to explain to my bar-hopping nightlife friends who Hamlet was and what a legend he was within our nerdy tech community. “You don’t get it, he’s like the guy who runs things in Python SEO world.” They had no idea what I was talking about, but they always loved him regardless.
Everyone always loved Hamlet.
You didn’t stop supporting my DJ career during COVID. Nope. You tuned into every single one of my DJ livestreams even if just to send me screenshots of how many people were streaming at the same time. Sometimes, when the numbers were lower than usual, you would even give me shit about it. But when the number of viewers was high, I could feel your vicarious excitement that so many people were tuned in all at once. You never had to do any of that for me. But you always did.
Even until the day you were lying in bed at the ICU. You still made a point to tune in and watch my SEJ eSummit keynote and you stuck around for my virtual DJ set. You insisted on doing all of that from your hospital bed. I will never, ever forget that.
I loved the way you were such a solid friend and so consistently caring even when I was having a hard time. I would get stressed out and sometimes even lash out at you when I didn’t have time to talk, or I was feeling overwhelmed with all the 2020 ‘doomscrolling’ articles you so loved to send me. I would tell you, “hermano, don’t send me anything about politics after 6 p.m. please!” Instructions that you very obediently adhered to.
But you still never stopped checking in on me. I didn’t even realize at the time how much I needed a friend like you, someone who never thought twice about calling me, texting me, and Facetiming me just to talk and make sure I was OK.
Hamlet, we had the most special Facetime exchange last month in December, just a few nights before you got sick. We both looked like crap, lying around in our pajamas, but we shared so many things on that call. I remember thinking, wow – our friendship has evolved so much that we are even able to talk to each other this way.
You were so excited about 2021 and so proud of how well RankSense was doing. You were so excited about your business’ success in 2020, the new hires you had made, and all the incredible things on the horizon for you and the company in 2021.
I remember just telling you so many personal things during that call. I remember telling you so much, I was sort of kicking myself, thinking “I should probably not be sharing this much with him,” but I did because that’s how much I trusted you. I have no regrets about sharing any of it with you. All you ever did was just be there, and just listen as a friend.
Hamlet, last year, you just kept outdoing yourself with your new Python innovations and new features for RankSense. You were so incredibly excited about all of it. You used to tell me “you won’t believe the next article I’m writing for SEJ, it’s going to blow peoples’ minds.” And then, when it blew peoples’ minds, you couldn’t believe it was happening. You would send me screenshots of how many people read it, or the fact that John Mueller shared it. I was always like, “well duh! You are brilliant. What else would you expect?”
You were constantly in disbelief about how incredibly talented and smart you were.
You couldn’t believe how fortunate you were. You had a beautiful family, a wife you loved very much for decades, two wonderful sons (I still love that you would send me pics from your biking journeys with them), a prospering business, and so much stardom and respect in our community. I kept reminding you, Hamlet, you have all these things because you earned them. You earned them with your compassion, with your genius, and with your unrelenting ambition, creativity, and dedication.
You deserved everything you have, and more.
Hamlet, there’s so much more I could say, and I won’t stop writing about you. I won’t stop telling the world about you. I won’t stop advocating for your tool, RankSense.
I feel so blessed that we had this friendship and I’m so immensely sad that it had to come to a sudden and unexpected end.
And I know it’s not just me. There are thousands of stories like mine.
You touched the lives of so many people for so many years. This loss will be immense and your presence will never be forgotten.
Siempre te voy a querer, hermano. Que descanses en paz.
I have organized a fundraiser in memory of Hamlet. I will ensure all donations go directly to them. Please consider donating to help his family out during this difficult time.
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