No, I Won’t Anglicize My Name to Comfort White Americans

My sister, Fernanda, was named after my grandmother. Still, ever since I can remember, my family has called her Ferny. My uncle gave her this nickname, and she’s never been a fan of it. So when she transferred to a new college, she saw it as a fresh start. No one there knew her nickname, and she made it clear that her name is Fernanda — and no, you cannot call her anything else. 
“When someone I just meet gives me a nickname without asking first, it’s like they’re choosing their own comfort over mine,” she tells me. 
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There's a long history in this country of anglicizing the names of people from marginalized racial and ethnic communities, both with and without their consent. To anglicize a name is to make someone’s designation — which is often tied to their cultural identity — sound more like English by erasing everything that makes it “other.” Like my sister said, it’s a way to reduce the parts of ourselves that make others, mainly English-dominant white Americans, uncomfortable. It allows them to avoid the slightest bit of difficulty that comes with pronouncing our names correctly, the way our parents intended.

"For many folks, not anglicizing their name sends a powerful message: It’s a sign of taking up space, belonging, and acceptance. For others, it’s about honoring their identity." 

jacqueline delgadillo
For many years, some Latines have anglicized their name to gain certain opportunities and to avoid further marginalization. And it makes sense. Multiple studies have found that people with Black and Latine-sounding names are less likely to receive callbacks and interviews for job and housing applications. Even still, for many folks, not anglicizing their name sends a powerful message: It’s a sign of taking up space, belonging, and acceptance. For others, it’s about honoring their identity. 
Below, four Latines explain how their relationship with their name has evolved over the years. 

Alán Peláez López

My name is Alán. Removing the accent above the second "A" would completely change how my name is pronounced. It would no longer be the name my mother calls me by. It would anglicize my name and shift my entire identity. 
Growing up, everybody called me Alán because they would hear my family say it. Then, when I was in middle school, we moved to a white suburb where people immediately called me Alan, and I never corrected them, particularly because I was the only student in ESL. Once I got to college, a predominantly white university, I insisted that people call me Alán, and a lot of my peers would get very annoyed. Their irritation was frustrating. They would say, "Well, I don't speak Spanish," and I would respond, "Well, my name is not even in Spanish; it's a fucking French name because of slavery.” It became really important for me to correct folks because I realized that people would learn the names of the international students from places like Switzerland and Germany, but they wouldn’t learn my name.
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"Names are political."

Alán Peláez López
Fast-forward to today, and I don’t always correct people when they mispronounce my name. If it's someone that I'm going to see regularly, I tell them that my name is Alán. Giving people my name correctly gives them an entry point into my life and a sense of kinship, which is why I often don't correct people I don’t know. The way I see it: If you don't even know how to pronounce my name, then you don't really know me. At the same time, because I have an art career, and social media facilitates part of my practice, I put an accent to facilitate people's understanding that my name is not going to phonetically sound anglicized.
For me, you don't have to correct somebody unless you want to. But also, it’s messy because names are political, especially when queer and trans people rename themselves. If I rename myself, I will probably have a very different approach to insisting that my name be pronounced the way that I have renamed myself. For folks who have chosen their names, particularly for trans folks, that's a completely different politic because it's not only about culture, ethnicity, or community; it's also about gender politics and a critique of the binary.

Edurne Sosa El Fakih

When I was 18 years old, I immigrated to the U.S. from Venezuela. Changing my name to fit in is something I definitely won’t do. Even back in Venezuela, my name was rare, but I never thought my name was too long because people normally have a first name, a middle name, and two last names. That changed once I came to the U.S.
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No one has ever been able to pronounce my name correctly the first time around. Sometimes, I find it easier to just give people my nickname, especially when I can tell they’re struggling. I won’t allow someone to intentionally butcher my name, but sharing my nickname lets me stay true to myself while saving me the energy of constantly correcting people, especially at work. Anglicizing my name would take more effort, and I don’t want to do that.

"I refuse to change my name because that's not who I am. My name defines me, and I love it as it is."

Edurne Sosa El Fakih
My dad is Venezuelan, and his last name is Sosa. Meanwhile, my mother is Syrian, and her last name is El Fakih. Each of their last names represents a half of me. Edurne, which comes from the Basque region in Spain, symbolizes those two halves coming together. I also have two middle names. I share one of them with my brothers, which I love because it’s something that connects us. My name tells the story of where I come from and my background. It represents who I am. It’s something I’ve always had a lot of pride in. 
I refuse to change my name because that's not who I am. My name defines me, and I love it as it is. Keeping my given name isn’t about empowerment; it’s about being true to myself. 

Margarita Lila Rosa

In some ways, my name was given to me. But in the most important ways, my name was chosen by me because I affirmed it for myself. 
I was born Margarita Rosario, and as much as I love that name, I changed it legally to Margarita Lila Rosa in April 2022. I replaced Rosario with Rosa to decenter Catholicism and to have my full name made up of flowers. 
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The name Lila came about in middle school, when everybody at my school had so-called stripper names. In Jersey City, New Jersey, where I grew up, it’s a way of signifying yourself as an agentic being. But it was also a way for me to not use Margarita. At the time, whenever I would say my name, people would respond, "Oh, that's my favorite pizza” or “That's my favorite drink.” They didn’t realize it was a flower. Using Lila became a way to avoid the questions that came up when I introduced myself as Margarita. 

"In some ways, my name was given to me. But in the most important ways, my name was chosen by me because I affirmed it for myself." 

Margarita Lila Rosa
Once I entered more fully into my identity, I started using Margarita to introduce myself. To this day, people who know me really well call me Lila, and folks who met me in a professional setting call me Margarita, so I know who is speaking to me by the name that they call me.
To be honest, I don't feel strongly about anyone pronouncing my name correctly because I know it's a privilege to learn about phonemes, language structures, and syntax. So if somebody cannot actually roll the “R” in Margarita, that doesn't offend me. Also, for me, there is nothing noble about a Spanish name over an anglicized name. Spanish is also a colonial language. While we can affirm our Spanish names as a source of pride and identity, I don't necessarily see it as anything different from someone holding onto their given anglicized name.
I think we have to recognize the privilege that we have as people who have had access to various languages when we ask somebody to know how to say our name from the first time that we mention it. However, as my friend, as my colleague, and as my partner, you can learn how to say my name — and that is beautiful. Still, if someone were to choose an alternative name to call me, then that might cause an issue. 
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Hermelinda Calderon

I am my maternal grandmother’s first granddaughter. She passed away before I was born, so I never got to meet her. When I was born, my grandpa suggested that I be given her name: Hermelinda. I always knew I was named after her, but it wasn’t until I turned 20, around the time that I was doing lots of self-discovery, that I finally began to feel privileged to have her name. It’s so important for me to honor it, and sometimes that looks like asking folks to pronounce it correctly. 
I used to always let people mispronounce my name because I didn't want to bother correcting them, especially because I realize my name is so unique. I was a people-pleaser who avoided problems, and somehow it felt like a problem to ask people to say my name correctly. It wasn’t until college that I finally got fed up with people saying my name wrong. I realized that my name is a significant part of my identity, and I became outspoken about it. If I'm taking the time to pronounce your name correctly, then you should do the same, especially when someone really values their name. 

"I’m really proud of my name, and I want to be called by it."

Hermelinda Calderon
Some of my immediate family members call me Meli, but I don’t feel comfortable sharing that with everyone. It’s exclusively for my family. I’m really proud of my name, and I want to be called by it. For those of us who have uncommon names, there’s a lot of power in owning it. Owning your originality is a skill that will always help you along the way.
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