What’s in a (full) name

mountain peaks at La Huasteca, Mexico
Photo by Jonathan Sanchez on Unsplash

The following text includes mentions of migration, intergenerational trauma, CSA and colonialism.

This is why now I use my two surnames instead of just one.

I come from a lineage of strong women built to be strong by unspeakable circumstances. Young migrants on the backs of their mothers, following the elsewhere dream in lands up north, up North, up north. Abandoned by mothers abandoned by lovers, abandoning lovers, strengthening ties with their next generations to amend the acts of abandonment but never the sensations. I come from women with stiff upper lips and concealed tears through the wrinkles, and from emotional men who cry at the mention of the word “toilet” (to borrow Jaime Sabines’ line). From people of all genders perhaps at home in their genders, or secretly residing alternative genders, or embodying patterns of being unbeknownst to us now long buried in the dunes, or not at home in their selves and not at home in their zeitgeist. So I carry them with me just in case they would have liked the Here and Now or, at least, hoping they would have liked the Here with Me.

The traditional Mexican naming system includes the first surnames of – if we were to speak in purely essentialist terms – a person’s father and mother. Here is a quick description of the Mexican naming system, as cited on a University of Florida researcher’s website:

In addition to the first name(s), a person is given two apellidos (last names). In the cases above the apellidos are Rosado Rivas and Rosdao Mendez, respectively. The first of the two apellidos is the father´s first apellido, and the second of the two apellidos is the mother´s first apellido. Therefore, Ivan Rosado Mendez inherited the apellido Rosado from his father, Ivan Miguel Rosado Rivas, and the apellido Mendez from his mother Rosa Eugenia Mendez Vales.

Merida ’99 anthropology

There is still a whiff of the patriarchy. The father’s surname goes first, the mother’s surname is gone by the next generation or is quickly replaced by the husband’s father’s surname, often prefixed by “de” to denote a status of property. But there is a maternal acknowledgement.

Other cases are different, but as far as I know, my creation was executed by someone identifying as a father and someone identifying as a mother. So here I will only speak about my family tree and my direct roots.

Even with the two surnames crediting both people involved in the creation and/or upbringing of a child (there are cases when the father is estranged or unknown, so the child just shares the mother’s surnames and carries on the mother and maternal grandparents’ lineage), mainstream media and the spheres of society are simple and tired and only refer to someone using first name and paternal surname. Telenovela actors, most politicians, writers and journalists, only use their paternal surname and dump the maternal one aside. To slightly fit in a bit more with our neighbours in Anglo-Saxon domained territories. 

When I was 10 and started doing the entertainment section at a children’s news radio show as part of a mass media workshop for kids, the facilitator told us to drop the maternal surname and one of our given names “to make things easier for people”. He didn’t make things easier for me a few weeks later when he tried to show me how a singer danced and touched herself in preparation for a variety show by grabbing my hand from behind and making he touch myself suggestibly when no one was around, but whatever.

I’m honestly tired of bending, breaking and concealing bits of myself to make them more palateable to imaginary Western audiences. If I’m going to go places and do things, I’m going to do them my way, with my family and legacy full blast.

My ancestral mothers are migrant, so they came with me and you are going to have to bear with them if you want to bear with me. My ancestral fathers are emotional, so I carry them through the motions and you are going to have to sit down and enjoy the show.

These are the surnames the colonisers grafted onto the side of my family who were caring for the lands they surveilled before it all went belly up. I am unaware of the surnames, descriptions, idioms of the native side of my family, so as a Mestizx I am having to make do and mend with the colonialist surnames. It’s part of my shadow work to embrace both the survivors and the abusers in my lineage, because we have all been survivors and abusers to various extents in our present lifetime. We have hurt and been hurt. It does not mean we need to keep hurting and being hurt. I leave my Spaniard-origin surnames there, both of them, sitting high and sturdy, with no room for new European surname replacements from yet another empire – one of the reasons why I didn’t adopt my British husband’s surname when we got married. 

My family tree has invaded and been invaded far too many times in advance, so I don’t need the present dominant hegemony to keep invading me, my names, my displays and legacies once more. Let me show you what I’ve known, been and loved so far, as I attempt to move forward learning, sharing, improving, with awareness and compassion.

The “J” in “Juárez” is hard as in “home”, not jelly-like as in “joint”.

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