Cecilia del Carmen Heredia Rothschild. I have what my mom calls a “telenovela name” — for those of you unfamiliar with my mom’s lingo, that just means I have really long and dramatic sound name, like the ones in 80s and 90s telenovelas. Or like the Latinx characters on Spy Kids.
As an adult, I don’t have a problem with how long my name is but as a kid… Oh boy, I still remember how much I hated having to write it over and over again in school. I live in Mexico, and it’s fairly typical for people here to have two last names: the dad’s followed by the mom’s. So I never felt bad about my name. Or at least not until recently.
The other day, I was emailing back and forth with someone from a US legal department, trying to finalize the last details of my contract, when I remembered I’d never actually introduced myself with my full name. I figured she might need it since we were talking about contracts and tax forms. Before I sent the last bit of information and documents she needed, I made a point to include a little note at the bottom of the email, something along the lines of “I don’t think I mentioned this before but here’s my full legal name in case you need it.”
I got her reply within a few minutes – it read, “Thanks for the info. Ha! That is some name.” While I’m sure she didn’t mean anything by it — she’d been the nicest person so far, so I had no reason to assume there was any ill-intention to her comment — the way her email was worded made me feel uncomfortable. I felt like she was, in a way, making fun of me and my heritage with those two simple sentences. I said nothing and moved the conversation along, but I’d be lying if I said that there wasn’t a lingering sense of discomfort after that interaction, one that I’d never experienced before.
And then I remembered Spy Kids — yes, the early 2000s movie about kids who are also secret spies. I remembered Carmen Elizabeth Juanita Echo Sky Brava Cortez and Juni Rocket Racer Rebel Cortez (now, I know those names sound like they were written by someone who isn’t Latinx and they’re a bit too much of a cliché with the random words, but I’m willing to let that slide… for now).
I used to love Spy Kids growing up (to be honest, my obsession with the film started because it was the only way to keep my baby brother away from the TV, since the thumb-headed monsters terrified him). I remember thinking how cool it was that kids got to be treated like adults and, for a change, were the ones that save the day. My favorite part, though, is always Carmen’s introduction (since my middle name is Carmen, we have a special kinship). She always uses her full name — even when the villain is about to get her. No matter what, she’d take the time to say each and every one of the names that make her, her. Always in a proud and matter-of-fact tone, as if she is saying “Yes, it’s a long name. You’re going to deal with it and wait until I’m done.”
Much like Carmen and Juni in Spy Kids, I too am incredibly proud of my name and the story it tells — it is ‘some name!’ Latinx names aren’t just ours — I mean, they are, but they also happen to be a mix of us and those who have come before us. Our names are our story, summed up in four or five words. There’s a history attached to every single letter on our birth certificates and we carry that with us everywhere we go. Sure that can be both a blessing and a curse as the stories (and the people they remind us of) might not always be good, but they tell us we are not alone regardless. We are the sum of the people who came before and our names show it.
Yes, our names may be a mouthful, but our culture is the paragon for “go big or go home.” We do drama and “over the top” better than anyone: our abuelas make enough food to feed an army. We have dozens of primos, tías, and sobrinos. Our music is loud and made up of so many different instruments. Our food is filled with spices that oversaturate our taste buds (and I wouldn’t have it any other way). Our language is so rich and beautiful that we can find dozens of different ways to say the exact same thing. And we have holidays to celebrate and make a party out of… well, pretty much everything.
Latinx culture leans into our families and the drama that goes with them. So of course it makes sense that our names reflect that. Sure, it might be more practical to go by ‘Ces Heredia‘ in my day-to-day life, but I will always be proud of my full name as long as it is.