When my dad named me, in a small hospital room in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, he probably never thought that one day I would leave the island to come live in the United States. Where ninety percent of the people I would meet, mispronounce my name. Don’t get me wrong, I know how my name is spelled (Sussy) but I also know how it is pronounced (like Susie or Suzy). This might sound crazy to some, but it really is a simple as that. My history didn’t start when I arrived in the United States, my history traveled with me.
From what I know, my dad was gifted a translated booklet of an old musical composition call Sussex Carol, he thought this was a fancy name, so he replaced the letters ex with a y.
Sussy Carol Santana Villamán, that is my name. It is pronounced like Susy or Suzy because I was born and raise in the DR and that is how it is pronounced in Spanish.
I didn’t learn to speak English until I was fifteen and up until that point, I was Sussy (you guessed it, like Susie or Suzy). In a material sense, my dad didn’t give much, but he did give us names, all of his eight children. Names he thought were kind and prosperous.
The first time I heard my name mispronounced was at doctor’s office, I heard the sound four times before I got up.” Ms. Santana? We’ve been calling you.” Really? I said. That sound was not my name, but it was the way some people pronounced my name in English. I was surprised.
I became an American Citizen in my twenties, before my swearing in ceremony I was asked by a very sweet lady if I wanted to change my name. I thought to myself, “how odd, why would anybody want to change their name?”.
I said no. She pressed on “You are an American now, you can have a new name.”
I thought of my dad, how could I give up the name he gave me? I also remembered the many times I had been called by my name, with love, with fear, with anger. How could I erase my history? I said no and I don’t regret it. My name is Sussy Carol Santana Villamán. I know how it is spell, but I also know how it is pronounced.
On August 4, 2020 my dad died of a heart attack. Everything happened really fast, and many of us didn’t get to say goodbye to him. While we are glad he didn’t suffer, we all dread the day we have to back home and not find him there.
My dad didn't leave a lot behind, but he left us names. Names that carry his immense love for us.
Lately, every time someone mispronounces my name, I feel like my dad dies all over again. It truly is that personal.
If you are reading this and find yourself before a name you don’t know how to pronounce, ask. Consider the possibility that people come from different places, and that there are many other worlds outside our own. Ask, and please let me know, how do you pronounce your name?