24 February 2008

Under the rug

It's Sunday afternoon, just came back from the laundromat, my place is in desperate need of cleaning, I started yesterday, not done yet. And instead I am writing a post on my blog. Typical guy who lives alone. Somewhere I read or heard a complaint of someone about men not noticing dust... I notice it alright, I just (1) don't care enough (2) cannot deal with it right now. Anyway, I always have the feeling that no matter how much I sweep and mop and spray and scrub filth will always come back, almost immediately. Cleaning is one of those mundane(yet necessary) activities that makes me feel like the Sisyphus. Is not the only one, but is the one I have in front of me right now.

Well, continuing with my search for identity (which will help me procrastinate and avoid cleaning) and with my crusade to understand and share my "culture of origin" I thought about writing about second last names. In Guatemala, and in most Latin America I believe, the tradition is to have two last names. The "first" last name is the first last name of the person's father and the second last name is the first last name of the mother. This creates the illusion that there is some sort of value on the woman's family name. Think about it, the mother's first last name is actually her father's last name.

I am always intrigued by the importance of names and family names. Is a colonialist criollo mentality I guess. From very young I was inquiring about the origin of both my family names and the people behind them. It seems my great grandfather from my father's father side (i.e. from my "first last name" side)moved from La Antigua Guatemala and pretty much lost ties with his relatives back there (a mere 41 km from Guatemala City, but with treacherous roads and lack of means of transportation it used to be a day's travel back then I guess). My second last name, the one I take from my mother and which I have fought to keep in Canada defying local tradition and other immigrants practices is Escobar. There is an interesting way how my mother, and therefore myself, end up with this last name. There is a more "parental" than biological connection with the last name. My mother being the second child out of three children and only daughter of my grandmother received the last name of her second husband, even though it was understood and known to everyone that she was the daughter of my grandmother's first husband. Thus I have cousins with different last names. My grandfather Escobar was, besides all his flaws, my mother's father.... real father, as they say.

In any case, I grew up proud of both my families and thus of both my last names (the criollo mentality once again). At some point in the transition from Guatemala to Canada I thought that hyphenation was the only choice I had to "save" the Escobar. I started using the hyphen and up to this day there are versions of my name hyphenated at YorkU. Don't get me started with the fact that I use my middle name as my call name. Two first names and two last names make for quite a bit of confusion and I find endearing when someone calls me Mr. Escobar. At some point in my life I thought about making my father's name a "middle name" and adopting my mother's last name as my own. I outgrew those tantrums that would have caused unnecessary and potentially costly headaches, without mention an outright split from one part of my family heritage. So I have learned to embrace my different familiar origins and in my colonialist mentality I even designed a coat of arms for my two last names combined (see above). I am no expert in heraldic elements so I cannot explain or defend my coat of arms. For purposes of this convoluted post let me just say this: Escobar, means literally "to broom", not "to sweep", but "to broom". Thus the brooms in my coat of arms. So it would have been ironic that I just sweep my second last name under the rug and even potentially forgetting that once I was called Manolo just to please North American standards of one name and one last name. Moreover, and coming full circle on today's lesson is the fact that cleaning is waiting for me and I'll be using the instrument that is representing half of my family heritage in my made up coat of arms.

But the story doesn't end here... Next month I'll be taking a three day course on curling, a somewhat obscure and/or archaic Winter sport in which teams compete over solid water throwing stones towards a "target" and in which they use (wait for it) brooms to "curl" the ice in front of the stone to give the throw both impulse and direction. This can be the begining of a beautiful friendship between a Spanish last name and a Scottish sport popular in Canada. It can end in the Olympics, why not dream big. After all, the oldest Olympic medalist is a Canadian curler. Definitely not the ones in Vancouver in 2010, but probably the ones in Sochi in 2014, which coincidentally were awarded to the Russian city in Guatemala just last year. Coincidence... I think not.

Now back to cleaning... a toilet bowl awaits.

6 comments:

CancunCanuck said...

I've suffered on the other side of the second last name issue. Living in a country where every form, every application, every little thing asks for a second last name has caused me untold problems. When I was in the hospital giving birth to Max, they asked me my mother's maiden name. I wasn't thinking clearly (well medicated!) and told them. And then the fun started. Going to register for Max's birth certificate, we brought all the forms and ID's etc., but they said that I wasn't the same person as the hospital files suggested. My mother's maiden name is not on my passport or my FM3 of course, but it was on the hospital records. They refused to recognize that I was his mother. Months and months of trying to remedy this situation caused much undo frustration! We finally managed to get the hospital to change the original records, but it was a great hassle, they just didn't understand that my name does not include my mother's.

Then we get to places like banks. Trying to get a bank account was not easy either. They insisted that their computer program could not move forward without a second last name. I explained over and over again that my legal name does not include it. They explained over and over that I had to have one. Person after person tried to get the computer to accept me without a second last name, they finally brought in an IT guy to override, yet another second last name nightmare.

Now, I am happy about Max having my last name as his second last name. If it wasn't the legal thing to do here, I would have done it anyway with a hyphen, it was important to me that he have it. Mexico made that part easy for me. :)

And oh my, do enjoy the curling, it is a lot of fun throwing rocks at other rocks and sliding all over. I guess you'll be even more Canadian after the experience.

Mario said...

Maybe in order to understand mankind we have to look at that word itself. MANKIND. Basically, it's made up of two separate words "mank" and "ind." What do these words mean? It's a mystery and so is mankind.

Hop Hunahpu (Quintus) said...

I had the same dilemma but only lasted like...5 minutes...
Proud as I am of both my last names I decided to sacrifice my mother´s for the sake of convenience...

The real dilemma was with my "first name"... When I arrived I was asked to fill out all the forms... I understood "first name" in the literal sense without realizing the implications...
The problem I had was that my "first name" is a name I never went by...But I didn´t want to explain all the jazz about first and second firsts and second names in Latin America...So (again out of convenience)I register for everything using my "first name" and my "first" second name... everything went fine until I startet getting all correspondence addressed to my "first name"...I went to University and I was forced to introduce myself as "first name" (I really didn´t want to explain..) and before I knew it I was stuck with it.

It felt very awkward to say the least, specially the first days of classes when my name was called and I had to respond...

For many years I let it go that way even though it bothered me. But one day I decided I had enough and I let people know that I wanted them to call me by my "real" name... people surely thought that it was weird... the moral of the story...sooner or later one faces the music for procrastinating...

Manolo said...

Canucka I have never thought about that! Wow, that is (unfortunately) so typical... thinking that "our" way is the "only" way and that even the computer systems are designed to give us the reason. But it is pretty cool to have a name that reminds of my mother. Although "mother's maiden name" doesn't make sense as a "security question". I'll report here how the whole curling thing goes.

MarioROFL... maybe "ind" comes from "'hind" short for "behind"... but what does "mank" be... hmmm... maybe it has to do with the way the crab walks: ass-backwards.

Quintus I have never used my first first name as much as I have done here in Canada. But I have kept my middle name, which like in your case is the one I go by, as much as I can. In the dentist office they even have it in quotation marks "Manolo" like if it was a nickname. East Asians (Chinese, Taiwanese, etc.) sometimes have a "Western" name and I have the suspicion that more than once people don't think that "Manolo" is my real name after I say I go by that name.

AntiguaDailyPhoto.Com said...

So, Manolo what is your REAL first name?

Manolo said...

Rudy You want me to give my FULL name here... eh? Sneaky... Well it is... {we interrupt your regular programing to bring you the much anticipated new single from Daddy Yankee}