hello, my name is…

January 16, 2013

names have power.

i was named, Sarahí. (try it in your best Spanish. the “h” is silent and the “í” sounds like “ee”).
my mother’s older sisters named me. her name was Sara (again, read that in Spanish).
she thought Sara was too plain.

recently, i went to an open house (i am in the process of applying to nursing school) and the young man who gave the opening presentation introduced himself as Jose Villa (read, Ho-say Vi-la). my heart ached. i cringe when we do this (i was guilty of it years ago). hell, i didn’t even try to say my name in “English,” i simply changed it to Sarah.

lots of us are guilty of this. some of us do it ’cause we just don’t want to deal. others because, “whatever.” pero i stopped doing this about eleven years ago.

what changed?

i realized a few things,

1. i had to learn an entire language, the other person just needs to learn how to pronounce a name.
2. i was dishonoring my name by butchering it both written and verbal. i slaughtered the texture of it, to please foreign tongues.
3. my name is BEAUTIFUL.

we spend so much time trying to assimilate, to fit in; while honoring the traditions of our culture. we sacrifice parts of our culture that can bleed out for a lifetime. but i couldn’t do that anymore. i grew up in the states. but i wasn’t born here. neither were my parents. neither was my name. and i have to work at holding on to these cultural parts of me because this place tries so hard to change the parts of you that are most powerful.

so we get here and they drop our mother’s last name. reserved for security questions at banks. then they call you something else. they ask the question, “what does your name translate to?”

if your name is Juan, now you are John.

NO!

you cannot translate a name. by definition names have no translation.
when you were named, you were given power.
you are to carry that name and make it yours while honoring your last names.

and when you migrate to this country they want to change it -pa’ que se le haga mas facíl en su boca.

i invite you to start saying your name, the way your abuela would say it if she were calling you back in the house. or the way your parent says it when you’re in trouble (you know, when you get that first and middle name). give people your name the way it is supposed to be pronounced.

i told my nephew this just a few weeks ago.
tell them there is no translation for Se-bas-tián.
it’s not sa-bash-chin. it’s not even close.

my name is Sarahí. anything less is disrespectful.

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3 Responses to “hello, my name is…”

  1. Tracy Says:

    Bravo!

    You are spot-on. I never understood why people who migrated to the states were given different names?! Why? As you say- so people don’t have to learn a new word? Yeesh.

    I lived some years deep in the Adirondack Mt’s, near Lk. Placid, NY. This area was settled by many French people in the early 1900’s. Yet, so many of those in my generation (I’m 52 in a few days), totally turned their backs on the beautiful French names they’d been given- and began to “mis-pronounce” their OWN names! Yvon (ee-vone) became I-van (ugh), Maurice (moor- eece) became Morris, Andre (on-dray) became (Andy!)…

    I’ve always loved how beautiful & melodic French & Spanish sound. You’re quite right to protect your name.


  2. thank you for reading tracy!

    yes, this is what i refer to as “name change syndrome.” all immigrants go through it. some of us resist! 😉


  3. I have the same situation in reverse. I live in Spain and it is tough for the Spanish to say Jason. A girl I was teaching said, “Ah, Jasonín'” which would be ha-so-NIN in normal English pronunciation. It has stuck. Even Carmen calls me Jasonín now. When I went back to the same school and other people were calling me Jasonín little Marta, the girl, said, “You can’t call him that. That’s my name for him.” It is like a nickname.

    The bureaucrats are always putting my middle name in as my surname.

    Have you seen Maya Angelou singing This is My Name and I’m Proud of It with Big Bird on Sesame Street. Fits the bill.

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