Your name is basically who you are. So when someone makes fun of it, or tries to invalidate it, it's hard not to take it personally. Spanish names can be easy to made fun of - "Is no one in your family creative so they names all the males Juan or Jorge or Joseph?" "That's not how you spell Cristina in America. So we'll spell it correctly for you since you're now here." "Your name is what? That's a stupid/weird name." It's hard not to grind your teeth when someone you have told over and over again how to pronounce your name says it wrong and they don't care enough to care how it hurts you.
These are the stories of Carmi and Esmeralda and their names and Latinx identity,,,
I hated my name a lot growing up- "Carmi" doesn't seem like a weird name, but kids found a way to make fun of it. And my middle name, Milagros, was even worse - what little girl wants to have "gross" in her name? That's like putting a target on your back for bullying.
I think I first started to embrace it when I published my first abstract... now I just use my full name for everything, and I'm getting to be more okay with it. According to my mom, my full name was chosen because it means "Garden of Miracles."
I always get a lot of "Is that your real name?" which is frustrating. I don't know how many times people have thought that it's a nickname or made up, I wish I had a dollar for every time I got that question. Carmi is the name of my great-grandmother and Milagros is the name of my great-aunt. Maybe it's dumb to get upset, but I feel invalidated when people make those comments. I know people usually don't mean anything by it, but it still hurts. A middle school teacher told me, "Get used to it because it will happen for the rest of your life," which was probably some of the dumbest advice I've gotten.
To me, my name is beautiful and something I (now) don't want to change- I wish other people would take the time to understand and appreciate it too.
Esmeralda is the worst name to have. Especially when you have dark hair and light eyes and look like the gal from The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Everyone loves to make that comparison. I was called a "filthy gypsy" and left cut outs of Esmeralda on my desk every day from 8th to 10th grade, different parts stabbed or sawed off and bloody. It wasn't bullying according to the school, nor was it a threat. I saw it as both.
When a boy shoved me into a locker and threw some coins at my face to blow him, just like "that Spanish whore" he sneered, I skipped so many days of school I became a drop out. I was called Esmeralda because of my green eyes. He slapped me until my green eyes shut because I spat at him. My name became a curse word to the men in my school.
Once upon a time when I did like my name, my teachers would try to shorten it without asking or pronounce it wrong ("IZ-MEH-REL-DA come to the front please") and try to change the spelling to make it more English. One teacher insisted on calling me Elizabeth instead, because "your foreign name is just too hard."
I go by my middle name now because of how tainted my first name has become due to my school memories. I wish people knew how much it hurt when no one tried to say your very identity correctly... and how much it hurt when it was spat upon like some dirty thing.
Mi historia is a collection of stories from the Latinx community about their life. Their struggles, their triumph. Their history - our history - highlighted during a month where we celebrate our roots. These are their stories. These are our stories.
Hi! I'm Melissa, an Australian-based Latina science educator, podcaster, and freelance writer. I spend a lot more time on Instagram and Twitter, but blogging is my first love. Thanks for stopping by — I hope you stay a while.
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