The name game

Eric Gonzales learnt some family history

bad

On Christmas day, I received the proverbial equivalent of a lump of coal. Surrounded by family, I gushed to an aunt about the romance of our Hispanic surname. “Gonzales” seemed exotic, exuding sex and sensuality when uttered by some masked bandit to his damsel (or Don, if he swings that way) in distress.

I expected her to laugh. Instead, I got a history lecture.

“Three hundred years ago, the Spanish colonised the Philippines and set up a tyrannical regime.”

Oh.

“And they gave peasant natives Hispanic surnames so they were easier to tax.”

The romance wasn’t the most grievous loss. Hierarchy resonated in my surname, and now it suddenly felt corrupted,
degrading.

The past seeps into our present. Although a Hispanic stock name effaced my ancestors’ original identities, it’s a birth right I refuse to renounce. It is no longer reflective of exoticism or sensuality, but so much more.

Some names, my name included, depict complex and rich histories past. But that Christmas day, I heard something else in my name. “Gonzales” painted a map of ancestral lines of possibility and progression.

I am no longer a peasant, but richer knowing of centuries past.