Naming our children was always an organic affair. There were those special names that I loved the sound of, the names of important people, names that meant something special. Each and every time I became pregnant, my husband and I would have a little pow wow and put our favorite names on the table. We both tried to stay away from cutesy sounding names and overly common names. I’ve always loved the names Ian and Dylan, but my husband quickly vetoed them both because they sounded “too huero,” “too gabacho,” and “too Caucasian.”
So, I really started to think about the whole baby-naming process. As two Mexican-American Latinos (my husband is also half African American), what are “culturally appropriate” names for our six children?
Shouldn’t names reflect something of the bearer, besides their cultural heritage? Yes, it does seem a little ironic for a dark-skinned girl with indigenous features to be named Britney. Or the flipside, a fair-haired, blue-eyed boy by the name of Moctezuma. But at the same time, I wanted the names we chose to be unique and have a special meaning to us, reflecting a variety of things: our family, our interests and our culture.
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One of the two most “ethnic” sounding names we gave our children is Diego, after Mexican Muralist Diego Rivera. We named our son Diego way before Dora the Explorer came on the scene. I loved the name because it was unique and because it represented something both my husband and I love: art. The second most ethnic sounding name was bestowed upon my last child Xiomara, which is Spanish in origin and means: ready for battle. Both names seemed like tall orders to place on tiny infants, but as time passed they seemed to fit their name perfectly.
My daughter Xiomara is questioned the most about her name, which is very common in South America, but here is butchered on a regular basis. Zee-o-mara. Eggsy-o-mara. Hee-o-mara. Most people won’t even attempt to pronounce it and will just spell it out, X-i-o-m-a-r-a, with their eyebrows knitted together, as if I named her this to specifically torture them. Most days, Xiomara goes by the nickname Xixi (cee-cee), and this is a happy medium for us. Sometimes I wonder whether I did her a disservice, giving her an ethnic name, and one that is so difficult to pronounce. But after I witness my little girl with a big personality, I know she’ll be able to pull it off with aplomb.
What I really should’ve considered during my baby naming quest was the length of their names. You see, when I started having children, I had no idea I would just keep having them over and over again. I didn’t think I’d have to choose my children’s names wisely. I had no idea how many times I would have to write their names down on forms. Or how many times I would have to recite them to strangers. Or more importantly, how many times I would have to yell them out day after day. But when you are holding your precious newborn babe in your arms, those aren’t the things you contemplate, right?