When people first look at me, they don’t think I’m Mexican, let alone Latina.
Because I am white-passing, I make it a point to let everyone know that I am, in fact, not white. When people first meet me, our conversations usually go like this: “Can I ask what you are?” and “You must be half, right?” “Oh, you’re Latina! I had no idea.” Even if people are unsure of “what I am,” I let them know real quick by the way I say my last name.
So imagine my dilemma when I was getting married to a white man. I know that sounds bad, but hear me out. I started worrying about whether or not I would change my last name. Instead of freaking out over which flowers my bouquet would have or what food we’d serve, I was stressed about changing my last name.
“Would I get rid of my last name completely or would I hyphenate it,” I thought. Even as I dabbled with the idea of hyphenating my last name with his, it didn’t sit right with me. Thankfully, it didn’t sit right with my partner either.
If I took my husband’s last name, not only would people assume that I’m 100% white, because as I mentioned before, that’s already something I have to deal with, but now people wouldn’t question it. They would hear my name and question nothing. I’d rather people inquire about my identity than not at all.
For me, everything that I knew about my identity and what I was most proud of would disappear as soon as I introduced myself. The thought of not being able to say my last name after marriage was nerve-racking. I couldn’t sleep thinking about it. How would I introduce myself? Would I awkwardly plug that fun fact into my conversation? These were the questions raced through my head at night.
While I was stressing out about my possible name change, my partner is the one who actually suggested I keep my last name. He reminded me that we could do whatever we wanted. We didn’t have to follow an outdated tradition because it was our marriage, after all.
Credit: @alyssawritesxo / Instagram / @delanieandco
If you haven’t noticed by now, my last name means everything to me. In the same way that people strongly identify with their hair, that’s how I feel when it comes to my last name. It’s who I am and it’s what makes me, me. I’m proud of it.
My last name isn’t that common either, so I’ve always loved how unique it is. My grandfather from my dad’s side always said his last name with pride, and I like to think that he instilled that in me. He grew up in a time when Latinos weren’t allowed to speak Spanish, but the one way he rebelled was by the way he pronounced his name. Because of that, I’ve never pronounced my last name “white-sounding.” By that, I mean that I actually pronounce my name in Spanish, the way my grandfather taught me to say it.
It doesn’t matter who I’m talking to, I’ll never change the way I prounounce it. I could be at the DMV, introducing myself to new coworkers, or confirming my attendance at a bougie event, I don’t care, I’m introducing myself in Spanish. Me vale.
You will never catch me saying my last name in an English way in order for non-Latinos to understand it. If anything, I make it a point to say it con fuerte. I emphasize each letter, drag out each syllable, and say it loudly for the people in the back. Another thing I do is that I always roll the “r” in my last name, and sometimes, I even let it linger. I want it to sink in, so people know that I’m Latina. To some, my skin color might tell a different story, but my last name does not.
Credit: @alyssawritesxo / Instagram
Once I realized that I was in control of keeping my last name and that my husband was on board with my decision, I felt at peace. I didn’t have to worry about losing my identity or the one thing that matters to me the most.
Just because I was getting married didn’t mean I had to change who I was. I didn’t have to lose my last name because of some old tradition or because of what seems like the normal thing to do.
Keeping my last name was the best decision I’ve ever had to make, like ever. This was the one time when I really listened to my intuition, and if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have been happy—and that’s not how I would want my marriage to start. On that note, I know that I’m lucky to have a husband who was completely okay with my choice. Although, even if he wasn’t fully on board with me keeping my last name, it wouldn’t have been his decision to make.
Credit: @alyssawritesxo / Instagram / @delanieandco
Losing a huge part of myself would hurt too much, and deep in my heart, I would not feel like myself. I would get rid of the single most important thing that makes me who I am.
Tossing away my last name would completely strip me of my identity, and it would make me feel like I erased my Mexican ancestry. Like I said before, no one would think twice about my ethnicity, and I’d rather have people confused as to what I might be than to assume I’m nothing at all.
For me, my last name is what ties me to my roots. It’s also a reminder that I’m privileged. I can say my last name in Spanish. Unlike me, my grandfather didn’t always have that luxury. He said our last name with defiance. Because of that history, I’m able to say my name with honor.
Credit: Alyssa Morin
My last name is what reminds me—and everyone else—of my heritage.