Happy May 18 and a most special happy birthday to my husband, Jim Curry, my Irishman who makes the best paella. I always say “the Irish find the Latins”. Something about the love of life, music and beauty, chattiness and curious intelligence. I grew up surrounded by couples that were either both Latinos or Irishmen with Hispanic wives. I used to think it was because of the wartime era and global exposure. But as I hit my 30’s, I realized I migrated to the same circles.
It made for diverse names that had people tilting their head, trying to understand. Names like mine, Consuelo Crosby or Margarita Reilly, Candelaria Murphy.
Today’s episode focuses on the importance of our name, why it was given and how it stands for our cultural identity. In today’s world, we are blessed to have more diversity in our daily lives in order to learn about other cultures. It is more acceptable to live one’s cultural heritage, especially by one’s name. And yet, it is admittedly difficult to learn each other’s name, pronunciation and meaning in an instant of introduction.
Perhaps that is the very core lesson of diversity; it is not about recognizing it exists through the different names and identities. Rather, one must take the time to learn more about the cultures, the language and traditions. People tend to want quick gratification of “knowing” someone. It’s that business acumen of responding back in order to memorize a name.
“Hi, I’m Pat.” “Hi, Pat, nice to meet you.” There, done! But, when it’s “Hi, I’m Margarita.” Then it’s, “Oh, like the cocktail! Cool!” Or, “I’m Candelaria.” “Hi, Cande, nice to meet you.”
In that moment of wanting to be right rather than learning more about the person, one’s cultural identity is not only dismissed, but assimilated into a Western thinking.
Learning a New Name
It’s tricky in so many ways because you have an organic experience – a person’s identity given with intention – slamming up against a learned structure. It’s the first thing a person learns outside of mama and dada. We as little people are so proud to learn our name, our identity. We take care in learning the pronunciation and the spelling. That moment we get it all right is one of the earliest moments of pride.
Now we may not like our names, may not identify with it, may even change it when we are adults. But, that decision is all yours. It is not for someone else to declare how you will be named. Especially, when the reason they change your name is to make it easier for them to remember or pronounce or be comfortable with.
For as much as we seem to be moving forward in embracing cultural and racial diversity, those moments of “really?” Keep coming around. And with it, a multitude of responses, from are you kidding me to oh, it’s ok, I know it’s hard”. Mine tend to be the former and without that synapse that prevents it from being said out loud. You can read my thought bubbles because they are in audio.
But seriously, it takes a lot of patience on both sides of the introduction. None of us are confident in learning names of our friends from other parts of the world. Especially when the pronunciation is not part of our tongue skills. Still, there is a lot of patience for those who at least try to do their best. It’s like going to a foreign country and trying to speak their language. You can see the pride in their smiles when you at least try. It’s not pretty! But you try, out of respect and appreciation for being there.
Cafecito Shout Out
Now, typically at this point I would introduce you to a new woman or diverse owned coffee business to support their entrepreneurial spirit and financial gain through our favorite ritual of coffee. But, this week was a tad rough on time. I didn’t have the time to wander and discover the next special spot for enjoying my afternoon Cafecito. So, we will have to catch up on one of the #steamycafecito moments next week. I hope you have enjoyed the introduction of both the owners and their passionate efforts in establishing their businesses so show them some love and visit their stores or buy their coffee and merch online.
It’s our way of supporting small business in any community so if you have one in your neighborhood or a global recommendation, then DM me on our Life Lnxx Instagram or email me through our website, at TheLnxx.com.
Twentieth Century Traditions for Names
So, let’s get into today’s topic of the importance of how our cultural identity is tied to our names. Parents spend a lot of time picking out the names for their newborns. Some want to be traditional, like naming a child after a parent or grandparent. Others are trying to be unique, like Apple or Rebel. And still there are parents that are going far out there, like X Æ A-12 and now Y.
But in the latina culture, specifically mothers to daughters, there is a cultural trend that may shift with each new generation. It’s less about the generation of the child and more about the mother’s journey in that generation. Up to the beginning of the 20th Century, so the early 1900’s, the Catholic Church was a heavy influence on names. And this is true for lot of different cultures.
For Latina and Hispanic mothers, girls were typically named for the Virgin Mary, but not solely by Maria. Each girl remained unique, to an extent, by adding another name to Maria. So, there were Maria Teresa, Maria Carmen, Maria Luisa – that was my grandmother, whose story you heard in episode 34. If you don’t remember a tia or abuela by that name, ask around to discover who was “the Maria”, in your family.
Many women would keep their full names, never shortening them. My grandmother would sign her letters, Mari Lu, even to my mother. Which I find fascinating! It was never mamacita or abuelita. Just Mari Lu… She was such a badass.
Now my mother was born Agueda Consuelo Vargas de Menendez and my aunt is Javier Elvira Vargas. I know my mom rebelled against being called Agueda when she was little so she was always Consuelo. But my aunt went by Javi when she was in Peru. Once she moved here to the U.S., she went by Elvi, not even Elvira, just Elvi. It may have been the TV show called Elvira, Mistress of the Dark about a female vampire.
Names with Meanings
In my mother’s generation, so many of the abuelas of today, names were often given to represent meaning. The ties with the Church were still present but not by tradition. Instead, mothers passed on names based on emotion and intent.
And you can hear the power in the names. This could have been the Feminist movement of their times. Selecting girl’s names to evoke action and hope, joy and leadership. The Latinas Poderosas Instagram profile had a great posting for Mother’s Day this year. It was a chart and an ask for Latina Mom Names that, in their words, “hit different”.
They nailed it! Names like Paloma, meaning dove, and Alma, meaning soul. Dolores, which means sorrows, Pilar for pillar of strength and Consuelo, meaning consolation or literally, I console. Now, these names have depth and women would hold true to their definitions. Sometimes they are a burden, but most times, they are a blessing.
So when someone comes along and wants to take that soulful depth away from you, and wants to call you Connie instead of Consuelo, it’s totally unacceptable. Here, it’s less about the cultural identity and more about the spiritual identity. Women like Dolores Huerta. She is still advocating for women’s rights at 91 years old and speaking at the California Conference for Women, alongside MaryJ. Blige and Andra Day. Now a woman like Dolores, you’re not going to approach and say Hi, Dolly. And yet, that’s what happened here in the U.S.
When it came to naming my daughters, I felt compelled to give them names that resonated with their peers. I honestly didn’t want them to go through what I went through. I even would try to bastardize the names I liked to see what others might come up with. If she were Alexandria, would Alex be ok, or Paige, would turn the page, torn page kill me. You know how cruel kids can be.
Cultural Identity In Names Gets Lost in Translation
So, I saved the latina representation for their middle names. My eldest has my grandmother’s name of Maria but my second daughter, I gave a name that was meaningful to me. There was a special site that I would go to in college to feel the power of Nature when I was feeling powerful. I loved that it had a hispanic name and it seemed to tie everything together for me when I was unraveling under the pressures of being the only girl in my engineering classes.
When she was born, I called my mom with so much excitement to tell her of Olivia’s special name. “Mami”, I said, “it’s a girl! Una muñeca! Her name is Olivia Morro…” My mom screamed and I thought it was from excitement. I thought she would be so proud! Instead, she said “Nooooo, hija, how could you?! That’s a terrible name. You can’t call her “a little mound of clay”. I swear you can’t win in this cultural identity claim.
She hasn’t changed her name so the soulfulness is still there. But there’s a lot of reasons why names get changed. Usually, as a young person trying to manage a multi-cultural life, it’s just easier to go by a name that other’s accept. This is so valuable and understood. Life is hard enough through your teenage years and learning adulting that you don’t need people tripping up over your name.
A woman on LinkedIn literally posted about this yesterday so I had to add this into the recording. Her given name is Thuy Tien Tran, from her Vietnamese family. She went by Tina as she headed into her teenage years to make it easier for others. But now, she is embracing her name again. Tien means Sea Fairy. Imagine the beauty of this meaning married with the love that was behind naming her Tien and you may begin to realize the importance of honoring cultural identity.
Hitting Your Cultural Identity Stride
Then there comes an age, and it’s different for everyone, but it’s an age where you put your sword in the ground and are no longer helpful or apologetic about your cultural identity. Instead, you are fighting for it, demanding it from others no matter how much they are struggling with it.
There’s an intolerance from realizing that some people just want to remain in that learned structure. For all my almost 6 decades of defending my name, I have reached a point of dismissal. My name has become the filter for accepting people into my life or moving on from them.
I kept quiet through the years of being called Connie, even though I wouldn’t respond back. And through my engineering days where fellow engineers just called me DJ, a masculine version masking my femininity. It was a nickname off my married name… that also didn’t last. When I was Consuelo DeJesse, people thought I was a sassy single latina. When I returned to my maiden name, Consuelo Crosby, everyone thought I was married. I would smile politely and keep my energy.
But now, I take on the people who refuse to try to get it right or accept what you tell them. The worst are those who argue back at me. When I say my name is Consuelo, they literally respond back, “You mean Consuel-a because you’re a girl so it has to end in “A””. Oh my looooord! As though I don’t know my own name and more so, they are suddenly professionals at hispanic culture.
When I order coffee and they ask for a name, I tell them. They ask how to spell it, I tell them. If it comes out as Ponswallow, or Concello, or WTF, I don’t pick it up. Instead, I go back to the counter and say my order never came. Yes, I am that woman.
Fighting for Your Cultural Identity of Your Name
I am that woman not for my own pride or defiance. No. It’s because I want to live in a world that takes my identity seriously. I live for the day that names are honored with respect for the woman holding it close to her heart. Instead of our names being used to ostracize us or make us feel uncomfortable, they will be our beacons of independence and strength.
Let’s nurture the world where we want to discover the true identity of each other. Where difference is more important than sameness and diversity is sought. We are not the Steppford Wives, nor the Mary’s, Mike’s and John’s – names that were issued at the border, like multitudes of immigrants in this country.
If we declare a society focused on diversity and inclusion, then we must stop creating boxes to fit people into. More importantly, we must stop trying to alter ourselves to fit into those boxes. We are not products, but people. Our names are our identity that speak to generations of journeys filled with struggle, hopes and love. Whether it was a mother, desperate to continue her dream through her daughter, or one who claimed success already, our diverse names are intentionally given to us in power.
And yes, we can change them, morph them, go in and out of them as we continue on our life long journey, but it is up to us to decide. We are not blending in because if we do, we lose the gift of multitudes that have fought for millennia to get us to this moment. With your name comes the whisper, remember who you come from.
So, maybe to your friends and teachers, you can be another name, another identity, for a part of your life. More so, within your family, you will always be that powerful name backed by generations of culture and soulfulness. The name that sent you out in the world to face its struggles in grace and yet demand to be recognized and heard.
The Name Soccorro Means ‘To Help’
I would love to hear your stories of names in your family; the origins and stories behind it. That’s definitely a good time to share over a Cafecito. Like the woman who took care of my grandmother at our house. Her name was Socorro, which literally means to help. She was such a blessing and like an older sister to me.
I was tiny, maybe 7, and I would sit at the high counter of our kitchen, trying to learn everything she did. Socorro loved making tortillas. There was a huge bucket of lard that she would scoop out in handfuls and gently knead into the corn. She insisted on an iron skillet and pure butter. Mind you, these were the days that they tried to push margarine on us.
The music of her hands flattening the tortillas was rhythmic, like a salsa beat. One, two three, and one, two, three. Then the hissing as the fresh masa hit the heat and began to bubble up. Socorro never used tools, just her fingers. She would flip the tortillas and then toss them on a plate. Put a pat of butter on top and hand it to me before it had a chance to melt.
That memory is seared in me. I can’t imagine that would have happened with another woman. Socorro lived her name thoroughly with her tender heart, her warm smile and loud laugh.
But when my abuelita died, then Socorro no longer was needed.
But, I needed her. Without her, I was alone in being the woman my mother relied on. Without her, I was alone to endure the abuse of my brothers. Without her, I had no rhythm to the beat of a soul passionate in her identity.
What’s in a name? Your entire being, your cultural identity and purpose here. Live it out loud and don’t blend in!
Show Us Your Cafecito Moments!
Now, for the cafecito moments. I hope you were following the hints on our Instagram Stories. If you missed them, remember to find them in our highlights. The ones from Anytown Coffee at the Salesforce Park location still make me want to go back and wallow in the sun. I really want that thermos too, the white one with the fun graphics of San Francisco icons. Yes, that’s a hint.
Like I mentioned at the beginning, I took a break this week from the #steamycafecito moments. I had too much going on which is a bad sign. I already miss the time spent chatting and lingering in the sun with my cafe. But, we will be back with it in next week’s episode so stay tuned and caffeinated!
Remember to tag Life Lnxx in your favorite cafecito moments, especially in your own neighborhood and travels. Now that the world is opening up again, we can experience our global friend’s coffees. Remember, honor their special brew. It’s their passion. But, insist that they get your name right, too!
Take a look on our website at TheLnxx.com for each episode’s transcripts and the articles linked to what you’ve heard here today.
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Step into your truth, ladies. We love you! Ciao!