I just wanted to take a second and talk about my name.
My name is Jorge. That’s pronounced [Hor-hey] in the American Vernacular, and [Hor-hé] in the Mexican/Hispanic/Latino vernacular. It’s a simple name, really. It means farmer. It’s a name that was given to me by (or rather, a name I inherited from) my father. It carries a lot of pride with it, and I carry it with pride in my heart as I hold it mine.
But, I want to make one thing very clear:
My name is not George.
No, it is not, in fact, George. I know that it is very easy to say, “Well, the English equivalent of the name ‘Jorge’ is ‘George.'” Yes, that is correct. The problem is, the English equivalent is not valid. My birth certificate does not read “George.” My Driver’s License does not read “George.” My passport, my University ID, my insurance card, my work ID, hell, even my library card from the Library of Congress in Washington D.C., do not read “George.”
This might seem like a trivial thing to be frustrated over, but it’s a daily struggle. It’s about identity. William Shakespeare’s character, Juliet Capulet (of Romeo and Juliet fame) asks the question, “What is in a name?” But she was dealing with the happenstance of the man (teenaged boy?) she loved holding the last name of the enemies of her own family, the Montagues, making him her enemy. But Shakespeare’s purpose is more philosophical. Romeo’s last name holds the same value as my first name. It is our identity, and though he may find it easy to relinquish his identity (though he hardly actually does so in the play) I find meaning in holding onto mine.
I am a Mexican-American male, the son of immigrants to the United States. I carry on my back the hard work of all of my ancestors who toiled for the success of our family name, to whom I am indebted. With the recent controversy surrounding the words spoken by a certain presidential hopeful, I find even more reason in holding onto my identity.
Of course, it’s not my only identity. I’m a Jesuit educated, Catholic, young adult, male, living in the United States, receiving a college education, and doing everything I can to follow my dreams in music, activism, comedy, and one day hosting the Tonight Show.
Being of Mexican decent is only a part of my identity. But it is an important, deeply ingrained part, which informs much of how I see and interact with the world.
So, it is destructive to who I am as a person when others try to change my name. Jorge is the name of my father. It is the name that my parents chose for me. It has cultural, spiritual, and personal meaning. I am a farmer, a laborer, and caretaker of the earth and its fruits. George is the name of dead presidents who did arguable good, and living ones who did arguable bad. I choose not to associate myself with past presidents in general. Instead, I hope to be a president myself, maybe not of this country, but definitely of this world.
My point is not that people cannot be renamed. My point isn’t even about chosen names. My point is that my given name is what I say, what my parents say, and what these legal documents everyone seems to care so much about say it is. Do not tell me that my name is George, and do not question my frustration, or attempt to stop me from correcting you. You do not see me calling every “John” a “Juan”, every “Mary” a “Maria”, or even every “Carl” a “Carlos.” Not only is it wrong, insensitive, and offensive, but it belittles an entire movement that is doing everything it can to be heard.
The screams are bilingual, just like the boy named Jorge.