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His Name is Not México, Cabrón!

Updated: 5 days ago

I saw a Facebook post from someone I know and whom I respect that infuriated me. This person is in academia and he holds a somewhat high ranking position in administration at a private university. The post really bothered me and brought up an issue I have with some of my people, Dominicans.

In his post, my “friend” was lamenting the death of a deli worker due to Covid19. It was the first death of a person he knew. He said he saw him all the time and that he worked in that deli for 24 years. He was a very hardworking man and he made the best sandwiches for him. He called him México! No name, no last name, México. Reading that made me angry and reminded me of the many times I, undocumented immigrants, immigrants of color, students of color, women of color, LGBTQ people of color, and anyone who is in the margins of a community, has been erased. Even though it may not be the case for this man, his anonymity made me think of the unclaimed bodies buried in Hart Island, most likely bodies whose families are in other countries and have absolutely no idea they have died.


I have heard many Dominicans call Mexican bodega workers, Mexican restaurant workers, Mexican day laborers, and Mexican street vendors, México, instead of their name. I have only heard it being used with men. I have never heard a Mexican woman being called that. Customers and even employers (as in Dominican bodegas or restaurants) completely erase the person’s name and give them this generic epithet that erases their humanity, the person. Whenever I hear it I make it a point to ask for their name. Most of the times I have asked the “callers”, they don’t know the worker’s name or give me a hard time to answer, as if I am intruding or metiéndome en lo que no me importa. I then ask the worker for his name, pa’joder. And they always and gladly have told me their names. I find it to be very dismissive and disrespectful not to use someone’s name or the name they want to be called.


I believe there is an underlying feeling of superiority when someone decides to change someone else’s name. When I was younger and new to this country, many people would try to change my name and give me a nickname. I never allowed it. I hate nicknames for public spaces. I love my name. Very few close friends or family members have given me nicknames. And those I love. Son una muestra de amor, completely the opposite of this practice in public spaces or with people you are meeting for the first time.


I know names are very important in Dominican and in most, if not all, Hispanic households. It is one of the colonizing legacies Spain has left us in Latin America. There are a lot of Dominicans who love tracing back their lineage to “La madre Patria” if not to a famous family in their town. Family names are important; therefore, for someone to erase a person, a person’s name and that person’s family history, she or he must assume some power. I believe those who do it, consciously or not, regard this person as less important than themselves. These situations generally happen under socio-economic circumstances where Dominicans feel they hold a little more power. They are the bodega owners; they are the ones buying the flowers or the fruits.


I know many Dominicans in New York City call themselves plátano or mangú, but it is never used to replace their names; it is to enhance their Dominican identity as a collective. If they were to replace their names with plátano, there would be hundreds of thousands answering to that name in the city. Also, they call themselves that. If any non-Dominican tries to use it as a form of insult, to insinuate that the person is campesino or bruto, all hell breaks loose.


I know this offensive practice of erasing the person doesn’t only happen in Dominican spaces. We are familiar with Asians stereotypically being called “Chinos” by many other ethnic groups. Actually, my “friend” is not Dominican. He is Latino, but not from my island. I am sure he didn’t mean to portray any negative feelings in his post. I am sure he wanted to honor him, show his love and sadness at the moment, but it goes to show some of the unconscious bias we all carry. We can’t ignore people, erase them. In this case, this Mexican man, like millions of others, has no name. He is dead and he has no name. Please, refer to people by the name they choose to be called. We have to say their names.


Here is a poem:


¡Su nombre no es México, Cabrón!

Eres un pinche profesor.

¿Cómo es que nunca le preguntaste

si te hacía todos los días tu café y tu sándwich?

¿Cómo es que ahora lo vas a reconocer

porque de su muerte te enteraste?


¡Su nombre no es México, Cabrón!

Verguenza debiera darte.

Podrías haberle bautizado con un Juan de Dios

Jesus

Miguel Angel

para grabarlo en la lápida común donde lo enterraste

esa que tú ni nadie, jamás, una visita va a darle.


¡Su nombre no es México, Cabrón!

No te preguntas si vendrá alguien a reclamar su cadáver

¿Cómo se enterarán sus hijos, sus padres?

¿Descansará alguna vez su espíritu errante?

O es que crees que porque no tiene nombre

porque es nomás un inmigrante

su cuerpo tampoco tiene alma

con derecho a honrarse, a recordarse, a nombrarse.

Yoseli Castillo Fuertes, born in La Vega, D.R. in 1972, migrated to the United States at the age of 16. She holds a BA in Psychology and an MA in Spanish Literature. She is a bilingual-Afro-Dominican-Latina-lesbian-poet-activist-teacher-aunt-foster mom. She is a Cave Canem alumnus. Her poems and short stories have appeared in various anthologies and online magazines in New York, Buenos Aires, Madrid and Santo Domingo. Her self published book De eso sí se habla / Of That, I speak is available at cyoseli@yahoo.com. @yoseliescribe https://www.facebook.com/yoselicastillofuertes/?ref=bookmarks



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