A Latina by Any Other Name Sounds Just as Dulce
Posted on www.VidaAfroLatina.com on January 31, 2009
A rose is a rose is a rose. And a Latina is a Latina is a Latina. It doesn’t matter what her last name is.
But that doesn’t mean that people won’t question her loyalty.
Trust me, I know. I experience it every day.
With a name like Farguheson, my heritage is always called into question, as if Latinos can only have names like Martinez, or Rodriguez, or Lopez. There are some, many, Latinos with these appellidos, but we are so much more than a last name.
In fact, the diversity of our names, like that of astronaut Franklin Chang Diaz, a fellow Costa Rican who has participated in the most space missions of any astronaut anywhere, demonstrate the true colorful make-up of Latin America. We are not only descended from people from Europe, but from Africa, Asia and the indigenous populations that give us our beautiful and varied looks.
But unfortunately, the confusion, to say it nicely, comes from more than one source. The dominant culture likes to keep us in a box to easily identify us. The problem is that we are not easily identifiable. You cannot tell every Latino by our looks or our names. You can only know us by learning about us and listening to our unique stories.
Sometimes our own gente can fall for the box mentality, too, questioning how, where and when we got a name that may not sound like that of a conquistador.
“Farguheson? That’s not a Spanish/Hispanic/Latin/Latino name. Where did that come from? Are you really Spanish/Hispanic/Latin/Latino? Speak Spanish for me and prove it.”
They question our heritage, our legitimacy. Our Latino-ness, as it were. And the problem continues if you don’t have an accent and don’t look like what people think “Latinos” should look like.
An understanding that there were people already walking the hills and valleys of Latin America before the conquistadors arrived is necessary to make the shift from exclusion to acceptance between Latinos. And, remember, many more people came to these lands from not only Spain, but from nations of Africa and Asia, and other parts of the world.
As with most things, education can go a long way to solving the question: “How can we tell if you’re Latino if you don’t have a last name we acknowledge as Latino?”
But there are also needs to be an acceptance, a spiritual and physical understanding, amongst Latinos especially, that we are more than the Europeans who crossed the Atlantic, following Columbus’ lead. We are African and Asian and Indigenous and more.
We may speak Spanish. We may not. We may have been born in the United States. We may not have been. We may be from a long-line of Latin Americans. We many not be. We may have last names like Romero. And we may not.
We are Latino because we identify as such. That’s it. And there’s a not a box big enough to fit all of us in, not if we include everyone instead of excluding the many rosas by any other (last) name. According to William Shakespeare, they smell and are just as sweet, if we let them be who they want to be.
A former high school teacher, Ivy Farguheson followed her passion for writing by entering the journalism field. A reporter for the Muncie Star Press, she covers class, race and economics in the East Central Indiana region. Farguheson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.