I love hearing from you and an email from Maria Hidalgo in Tucson really touched me. In Maria's words is everything we need to know about the importance of our names, and with her permission, I am sharing her story.
Back in 1973, I was hired to teach at Franklin High School in Stockton, California. It was my 2nd year teaching and still felt the normal anxiety of a new teacher. I was a double major - History and Physical Ed. Although I really wanted to be a history educator, Franklin needed a Physical Ed teacher and so, I took the job.
I remember vividly on the first day of school, getting the student roster for all six periods and starting with period one, taking attendance. "Nancy Adams (here), Ed Brown (here)", and each time I came to a Spanish name I pronounced it correctly. I heard giggles from the Anglo students. I stopped and quietly asked what was funny. No one said anything. Not even the Latino students. Then I came to one of the most beautiful names I'd ever seen - Xochimilco Hurtado. No answer. I repeated the name and shyly a young girl raised her hand. And her classmates looked at her and asked, "Is that your name?" with an obvious tone of judgment. And Xochimilco snapped back "Yeah! what's it to you!."
After class, some of the Latino students approached me and sheepishly asked if I would pronounce their name "regular." I pretended not to know what they meant.
I asked, "Please explain what a regular pronunciation is?"
"You know Mrs. H., without the Mexican accent."
Gently, I reached out and placed my hand on that student's shoulder and replied, "there is no such thing as a Mexican accent, perhaps you mean Spanish accent?"
And immediately, Xochimilco from the back of the small group spoke up.
"Mrs. Hidalgo, you are the first teacher in all my life, who's ever pronounced my name correctly and that's how I want it pronounced. And you guys, pointing to the other 4-5 girls, need to check yourselves."
I looked at the group and asked, "are we done here?"
No one said a word. I wished them a good first day at school and politely excused myself.
I can still recall those beautiful brown faces, who would eventually beam a smile back at me, every time I took attendance - after pronouncing their names correctly.
Your story flooded me with these wonderful memories. To have your name validated by merely having it pronounced correctly - is empowering.
If you are wondering how this beautiful name is pronounced, it's quite easy. The X in Xochimilco has the S sound, and the letter H in Huerta is SILENT, like the K in knock. The H in Spanish is always silent except when preceded by a C as is Chihuahua. A great example, if I say so myself, as there are the two silent H's in Chihuahua. Remember that you already know NOT to say the H. Another example is "hasta la vista baby."
Ready? Here's how you say Xochimilco Huerta.
Next on my list of things to learn is how to embed a sound file so you can hear the pronunciation. AND if you know how to do this, show me how.
Please note that the X can also have the English H sound as in Mexico, Meh-hi-co. Thanks so much to Maria Hidalgo (that's E-dal-go with the E as in even ), What an unexpected and welcome experience for these students - a teacher who knew how to say their names and well understood that the "regular pronunciation" they were used to hearing failed to see them for who they really were.