¿Cuál es tu nombre?
Mi nombre es Paige.
I grin a bit, holding back a huge chuckle. Curled fingertips gentle cover the center of my mouth. Masking pursed lips. Exposed corners signal my joy. Big cheeks push my skin up wrinkling my nose and forehead. Part of me feel like I should be a little more mortified. But honestly it’s just so damn cute.
This small child is determined to capture the complex sound of the p and the sneaky combination of –ge. With each repetition the sound of the p is closer to a b and the –ge closer to a –th. The final time she pronounces my name the sound of the word rings clearly throughout the hallways. Bitch. This time she is grinning and runs off. She has mastered my name.
Another little boy squints his eyes and looks towards the sky. He is wracking his brain as he asks me to spell my name. P-A-I-G-E. But honestly I probably spelt it incorrectly as I try to remember the sounds of each letter in Spanish. Otra vez, bitch. He skips off with an open-mouthed smile. He too has mastered my name.
As I dry the dishes I hear the faint sound of the word bitch fill the air. I continue with the mountain of wet dishes and I hear it again. I peer through the window that separates the kitchen from the rest of the house. I see a woman stirring a giant metal pot with a large wooden spoon. After each meaningful whisper she shakes her head signaling her dissatisfaction with the final result. I stand confused for a second then realize that she is trying to say my name. I appreciate her voice and the love she displayed for me in that secret moment.
I begin to worry that the pronunciation of my name is mentally straining. For a minute I think that another name may be sufficient. You can call me Elisabeth or Pagina. The sound of laughter reverberated off the yellow kitchen walls. One woman. Yes and you can call me house if you would like. Other women start telling me that I can call them the name of inanimate objects and animals. Call me spoon. O and call me rabbit. They all agree that Paige is a much more suitable name. And I agree.
I entered the project with one goal. That was to be in community with others. To build relationships. Honestly, they could call me by the name of an animal or inanimate object. What’s more important to me is the feelings and thoughts that accompany that name. If the community at Educación y Esperanza remembers bitch as someone that they had meaningful connection with I will be overjoyed.
Today a child asked me– bitch can you hold my backpack?
* A name and its connection to communities, families and individuals is complex. In no way am I trying to say that one should accept butchered pronunciations and microaggressions due to ones name and the ethnic/cultural (and other) significances that name may hold. I would like to acknowledge that my experience of volunteering in Guatemala places me in an even more elevated position of privilege and power. Therefore in this instance, and many others, my privileged identities shaped the way in which I approached this specific mispronunciation of my name.