Thursday, March 31, 2011

Reclaiming My Names

When I moved here it meant making a few changes. I had to learn English. I was no longer going to eat lunch at 3 pm with my family when I came home from school, because now we had a 20-minute lunch period in the middle of the school day. Cheetos no longer had spicy pepper on them, and candy was suddenly sweet. But it also meant that my name was suddenly very different from what I was used to.

“Is die-ann-uh En-ree-qw-ez here?”

When I was six years old, I rejected it. I told people that I met here that my name was die-ann-uh, and because I have several last names, people often thought that my middle name was Enriquez and my last name was Schneider. I became Die-ann-uh Schneider. It used to offend my mother, and one day she asked me what I told people that my name was die-ann-uh. I told her that it was my name here. I wasn’t Diana anymore.

And so the battles went through the years. As my English and understanding of American culture improved, my name went from Diana Enriquez Schneider, as it was on my school documents to just Diana Enriquez, and eventually just Enriquez, which was all that I wrote on tests and papers by the end of my high school career. So where did Schneider go?
I get a lot of, “Diana, what an interesting pronunciation…” This is followed, most often by questions like: Where is your family from? How do you spell that? And here at Yale: What is your ethnic background? But you don’t look Mexican… I know. Yes, I am white. Yes, I am also Mexican. And yes, there are people who look like me “where I come from.” I picked it because Enriquez speaks for itself. It was the one thing that was clear and defined, not ambiguous about its background, and while it was often cut to pieces in English, it was clear and straightforward, and people didn’t have as many variations of it (though I was once called “uhn-rih-qwezzt”). So I liked it.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my name. Diana in all of its pronunciations, from dee-ah-nah (a much softer sound, slipped out of your mouth and left to float in the air), dee-aw-nuh (the more east coast American accent, a little more rough and solid but easily heard in a crowd), the joking dee-jaaa-nah (coined by a friend, who (jokingly) told his mother once that I would “cut her if she called me die-ann-uh), or the familiar d’yah-nah (the pronunciation of my name in the state that my family comes from in Mexico, it becomes reduced to 2 syllables). It’s all become a part of me, because it explains so much about what I have become.

I cant pretend that I am one thing. No matter how much I want to be just Mexican, I’m not. And part of that was accepting that Diana will always have several pronunciations. With this realization it became time for me to invite Schneider back into my life. In my time back in Mexico this past year, it was easy to have it back in the picture, except now Schneider was the verbal barrier to saying my name and Diana Enriquez was nothing out of the ordinary. Back in the U.S. there were new questions about my identity and my last name: is Enriquez your middle name? What is Schneider? But we’re all here to stay, my friends. I have set out to reclaim my names to the fullest. Though it means I will never fit nicely into a category, and both cultures of my family will always have trouble with part, if not all, of my name, I think I like being a little out of the ordinary.