What’s In A Nombre?

Latino surnameHow many times has someone looked at me sideways and asked “Iocco?  Is that Japanese?” too many to count!  Yes, my name is Monica Iocco.  I married a wonderful Italian man and took his name.  No, it’s not Japanese and I’m not Japanese or Italian, I’m Mexican-American and it’s pronounced “eye-o-co.”

My maiden name was Monica Gonzalez, well Monica Theresa Gonzalez Martinez to be exact.  Before I was married, I never gave my name a second thought.  I always liked my name and I considered myself lucky to have a name like Monica Gonzalez.  It was ethnic, but common enough not to get misspelled or mispronounced all the time, it was a good solid Latino name.

When I was engaged, I had to have the sensitive conversation of last names.  My husband, wanting to stay true to his family traditions asked if I would take his last name.  I had a variety of concerns but mainly, I was apprehensive about taking on my future husband’s last name because I worried about what my parents would think.  I thought that my parents would think it’s bad enough she’s not marrying a Latino, but now they have to deal with a daughter named Monica Iocco, or “Monica Yoyoko” as my mother would say.  I also felt like a part of my ethnic identity would be lost.  I asked myself, would I still be Latino enough?

But from that fear, I learned a lesson that I still carry with me and I try to remind myself of every day: your ethnicity isn’t in your name.  Being Latino is much more than your name, or how you eat your tacos (with cebollita, cilantro y limón) or how you drink your tequilita (en caballito) although these are all good indicators; your ethnicity is in your heart and soul, it’s how you were raised, it’s how you treat others and how you view the world around you, it’s you!  I sat down and talked to my mother and I asked “Ma que crees, me cambio el nombre?”  To which she responded, “Si tu lo quieres, y si tu quieres!”  Meaning, if you love him and if you want to!

My mom always had a very simple way of looking at things and she was right.  It was my prerogative to change my last name.  I love my husband very much and I wanted to honor him, by taking on his family name.  I felt just as empowered as if I would have kept my maiden name, or hyphenated, or made up an amalgam of our names.  I felt empowered, because as a woman and a Latina, I made a decision that was best for me and for my family.

Eventually my mom learned how to pronounce my last name, although I think she purposefully mispronounces it to be funny.  Putting family first, you can’t get much more Latino than that!

By Monica Iocco (guest contributor)