My name is Mariela
It is pronounced as ma-ri-e-la
Not mary-ela, not ma-ri-la, not ela or marila
Trust me it used to seem hard and unimportant to me as well
I remember in 10th grade while my history teacher was taking attendance on the first day of class, he pronounced my name as ma-ri-e-la (correctly) and I automatically corrected him and told him it was mary-ela. He mockingly responded to me, “oh sorry maaary elaaa” with a high anglo emphasis on my name
And I suddenly experienced a deep sense of shame and reflection
All my life, I had hated my name. I hated that it was so long, seven letters.
I hated how foreign it made me, before I even walked through the door
I remember growing up and often changing my name every week to Cindy or Alex or Emily. Once as my family and I crossed the Border from Juarez Mexico to El Paso Texas, for one of my dad’s Sunday futbol games, the border agent checked our passports then asked me what my name was. I confidently responded that is was Sarah (yes from the little princess) thankfully/unsettlingly, he chuckled and waved us through.
When we immigrated to California, I always envied all the girls in class who had easy names, friends they shared them with, clear testimonies that they belonged.
Mariela sounded strange and foreign—there were no easy “American” nicknames that could come of it.
My mom is named Marielena. Although on her birth certificate the nurse on duty mistakenly wrote María Elena. All her life and mine, she has had to explain her name and fight for people to push through the letters for its true pronunciation. She told me she had never met anyone named Mariela until she heard it from a taxi driver and automatically fell in love.
She told me she loved the way it sounded like hers but was shorter and sweeter.
I still toil with an inner name battle. I often catch myself code switching with my name. Often when I am in new environments with white individuals, I will automatically call myself Mary-ela.
I have noticed that when I am frustrated and talking to myself, I’ll say my name as Mary-ela. Somehow, I’ve internally processed that this is a negative way to identify and punish myself. Calling myself Mary-ela is a denial of my family, my history, my identity.
With many friends I never correct, and automatically ignore how they pronounce my name, like a painful memory I block out. When people pronounce my name correctly my body and mind have this automatically reaction where they seemingly release a breath, I did not know I was holding in. I experience this automatic sense of kinship and seen ness. I fall in love a little whenever someone pronounces my name correctly.
Unfortunately, I have learned that love is a rare and beautiful thing that at times surrounds you and other times is fleeting and shaky
I try and love the stuttering attempts, the shuddered ri’s
To satisfy myself with floundering attempts
But there is only so much climax that kissing can give you…
whenever people decided of their own volition to anoint me with a nickname to ease their uncomfortableness I tremble and internally calculate the value of the friendship and emotional tax it will incur
There are only so many times I call hear Maria, mary, ela, Ariel before snapping and literally snapping the strings of unfurling friendship
Let me explain the logic of my name
Maria does not translate to mary (.)!
I try and understand the strangeness and difficulty people have with pronouncing names with Spanish accents, and trust me perfect Spanish inflection this is not my expectation
However, please do not try and reason with me that Mary is the English pronunciation of Maria because no, you can pronounce Maria with an English accent and still not have it sound like Mary!
So, following this logic my name is not Maryella it is Mariela
When pronounced with an English accent nowhere should a Mary appear where the English mouth can deftly shape the sounds of ma (like mall) ri (like Rihanna) e (like elephant) la (like lactose).