I Roll my Rs: The Importance of Honoring Your Identity

Has everyone heard of journalist, Vanessa Ruiz, who joined an English speaking newscast in Arizona and quickly upset some viewers for pronouncing Spanish name with the correct pronunciation?

Seriously, it’s amazing what sets people off, but this is another example of mainstream communities tell Latinos that we do not belong. It’s so tiring.

I remember being in fifth grade and speaking Spanish to another classmate and the teacher flipping out in anger. She actually made me write, “I will not speak Spanish in class” fifty times. I mean, if that doesn’t impress upon a small child that their natural way of communicating is bad, then I don’t know what else would do it.

conforming as a Latina

This push by people in power for us to “Americanize” ourselves is constant, but it’s a prevalent problem in professional industries. I know college and law school friends who opted to use the “American” sounding name over their Spanish ones because professors, colleagues, or supervisors couldn’t be bothered with proper pronunciation. We are fed this idea that it’s easier for people if our names don’t have accents, or that we need to assimilate as much as possible, which includes having non-Spanish sounding names. But when people in power encourage us to change ourselves for their comfort that speaks volumes in how little they value us.

Uzo Aduba, from Orange is the New Black, is another great example of non-conformity regarding her name. And her mother spoke truth regarding how mainstream communities easily learn difficult Eurocentric names when they have to; but urge change in those for which they care little.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop with how we speak, but in professional circles especially, our looks are constantly monitored to ensure we’re abiding by standards that don’t necessarily come natural to us. I’ve spoken before about the “problem” with looking too Latina in a law firm and the impact it has.

So it’s important to revisit this topic to remind us that our natural way of being is not bad. How we speak, how we look, how we communicate is not unprofessional, less than, or un-American. Big ups to Vanessa—who, I’m sure wasn’t consciously making a statement, but by sticking to what is natural for her she’s showing that there’s something powerful in staking claim in your true identity—which includes your name and your form of speaking—regardless of how others react.

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