I will always remember when my husband’s grandmother said, annoyedly, “You should have named him something Canadian. He doesn’t live in your country; he lives in Canada.”
All I could think was, This IS my country. So preoccupied with a name too “foreign” for her liking, the old woman couldn’t even stop to admire her great-grandson. Javier Arturo. A name I hoped would someday belong to a good and strong man. A name not of my own choosing, but a name I had fallen in love with because it was in Spanish, and because my husband had lovingly chosen it. An act of defiance, on his part. An act of love for me.
I’ll never understand why white people in this country insist on anglicising names. To bastardize someone’s name in a way that changes the way they exist within society because the English are too flat-tongued, too myopic to be bothered to do anything other than force everything around them to settle into a form altogether different, untrue to its own nature, but easier for them to comprehend. Topádos.
Growing up, the kids and I would laugh at my name. “Guadalupe! It sounds like a disease.” I didn’t want to seem uptight, so I made the joke too. I was ashamed at how “ethnic” my name sounded. I wanted to be a “Crystal”, or a “Rose”, or a “Cynthia”, or a “Vicky”. But the name Guadalupe, Mother of the Americas, The Virgin Mother of Christ himself, was something I had learned to be ashamed of.
Why should we continue to conform? Why should we change our own identities to placate our colonizers? Wasn’t 600 years enough? I won’t conform. Not for another second. I won’t anglicise another name. I promise to make every effort to pronounce your name, however difficult for me, like your name commands respect. Because it does.
“Give your daughters difficult names. Give your daughters names that command the full use of tongue. My name makes you want to tell me the truth. My name doesn’t allow me to trust anyone that cannot pronounce it right.”