By Helena Rodriguez: PNT columnist
My uncle Ignacio passed away recently. Like many Hispanics with the same name, Ignacio was nicknamed “Nacho.”
After moving to San Angelo, Texas, though, he suddenly became “Nash.” That was the name embroidered on his shirt.
I laughed, but Uncle Nacho was serious. His co-workers called him Nash, and so we jokingly called him Nash too, although he will always be “Nacho” first to us.
To my 3-year-old nephew, Santos, who can’t properly pronounce his name, he will always be “Tacho.”
In thinking about Uncle Nacho recently, I realized how he is a testament to our bilingual, biculturalism. He was proud of his latest nickname “Nash,” and rightfully so. In the 1940s and 1950s, Hispanics were given Americanized names, and not always by choice.
Teachers couldn’t pronounce my mom’s name, Maria Enriquetta, so she became “Katie.” Many other students’ names were changed, sometimes due to prejudice or lazy tongues. As for Nacho though, perhaps his was done in good spirit.
Today, many Hispanics are purposely giving their children Americanized names such as William, as opposed to Guillermo, the Spanish form of William.
I still like to hear a good old-fashioned Hispanic name, though, one of my favorites being Jose Maria de Leon Hernandez, the full name of Tex-Mex singer, “Little Joe.”