I chose to take a more personal route today. In this post I’m going to share some of my journey accepting my name as a First-Gen Latina growing up in the United States. One reason this post idea has come up is because I am currently working on establishing my online presence and I am introducing myself to new people. I have grown to love my name but it took some time to get here.
My name is Candelaria. I bet you either had never met anyone with that name prior to today, or the number of them is less than 5…better yet, less than 2! As a child growing up in a Mexican household, everyone called me “Cande” (pronounced “khan-deh”). Spanish was my first and only language until I started school. Once I started school, I was lucky enough to have classmates who looked and talked like me. Again, my name was no big deal since my Spanish speaking teacher and classmates could easily pronounce it.
It wasn’t until I became fluent in English that things started to change. When I entered the 4th grade, I no longer had a Spanish speaking teacher or classmates. I was now expected to speak English the whole time and had new classmates that didn’t look like me. During the first day of school that year, one of my classmates asked me what my name was and in Spanish said, “Cande.” He was confused and asked me to repeat myself. I then told him my full name and he laughed and innocently said, “I’m going to call you Candy!”
From that day forward, my new name was “Candy.” Honestly, at the time I didn’t think too much of it because that nickname was given to me and it seemed to make things easier for my teacher and other classmates. I was also beginning to make new friends from different ethnicities. It became easy to introduce myself as “Candy” without having to repeat or explain myself.
My name continued to be “Candee” (I changed the spelling in high school, don’t ask why) throughout my whole educational career. I ended up going to a predominantly Caucasian university so it continued to make sense. It wasn’t until I started working post-college that my nickname began bothering me.
Some of the reasons why going by “Candee” bothered me where:
- It felt like a childish name and I was now feeling like an adult
- “Candy” sounds like a stripper name and I was now a working professional (lol)
- It began sounding too white for my self identity as a proud Latina
Meeting new people in a professional setting began feeling awkward because I would introduce myself as “Candee” yet I felt like I had to quickly explain that it was short for “Candelaria.” That would create a whole thing where people would feel like they had permission to begin asking where I was from and all that.
Fast forward to 2014 when I lived in a hippie commune in Hawaii (no, really, that happened) that I started meeting “unconventional thinkers” who opened my mind. I had my typical introduction saying my nickname followed by my full name and going into an explanation of not liking my nickname with someone who simply said, “why don’t you change it then.” I think I responded with something along the lines of “I can’t do that, can I?”
That idea felt so foreign to me. I never thought about choosing the name I’d go by. I had gone almost 30 years going by a nickname I didn’t choose nor liked. So I thought about it and ended up choosing to go by “Ria” using the last 3 letters of my full name. It worked out that I moved to a new state so all the new people I met didn’t know me as anything else.
The Regret (lol)
Honestly, I don’t even know why I changed my nickname to “Ria.” Well, actually, I do. I chose it because it would make it easy for everyone. I didn’t even truly like it though. It was just slightly better than “Candee.” I had been thinking of EVERYONE ELSE regarding MY name all this time. The older I got, the more I regretted it because I was also stepping into my Latina identity more and more. Having people call me “Ria” was quickly not working for me.
The Present Day Accepting My Name
During that time, I had an understanding manager at my job who encouraged me to go by whatever I wanted. I told her my reservations about people having a difficult time pronouncing “Cande” in Spanish but she encouraged me to not think of others since that’s MY name.
Thanks to her, everyone at that job began calling me “Cande” and I felt at ease. Since then, I no longer work a 9-5. This entrepreneur life has been a journey on it’s own but I feel good finally going back to my birth name. I love introducing myself using my beautiful Spanish name. I love being Candelaria. My higher self loves it. It brings me a sense of pride for my Mexican culture and for my family ancestry. I was named after a great-grandmother, after all.
It has taken decades accepting my name. I had to overcome my own self limiting beliefs always thinking of others instead of the name my parents gave me. During my self-development and self-love journey, I finally have accepted the fact that I AM Candelaria and I was given this name for a reason. I am now not thinking if other people will pronounce it correctly, that’s on them.
Again, I took a different approach with this post and wanted to simply share my journey accepting my name, soy Candelaria. It truly is a unique and special name. I hope this resonates with you or maybe share it with someone you know who has a unique name too! You matter and your name matters too. You don’t have to change it for the convenience of other people.
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