"My name made stand out..." an Essay from Ximena Gonzalez
This essay was written by Ximena Gonzalez, Marketing Assistant, Penguin Press Marketing.
I knew I was different before I even knew why. My name made me stand out. It was a conversation piece and immediately separated me from anyone else. When I was growing up in school, there may have been three Ashleys in a classroom, but there would only be one Ximena. In the US, my name is something to be perplexed by. It’s what caused teachers to stop and stare at the paper in front of them while taking roll call, or it forced people to make a Z sound, when there was no Z in sight. When I was younger, I felt jaded from having my name butchered to no end. As I got older, I’ve developed deep affection for my name and its uniqueness, and most importantly—its origins.
While in the US my name is a rarity, in Chile, it’s familiar. It rolls off the tongue easily and carries a warmness to it, as I’m named after my mother. I’ve dealt with these polarities all my life, the biggest one being my identity. I have the passport of an American, but the heart of a Chilena.
Chile is where my family is from. My parents left with my three older brothers in tow to start a new life, doing it alone. I was born in Orlando, Florida. I wouldn’t understand the significance of this, or how lucky I was, until I was older. This tiny fact would dictate how different my future looked from my family’s. It dictated the privileges I instantly had at my disposal just by a stroke of fate.
While I wasn’t born there, the culture of the country runs thick in my veins. It’s the reason why I can understand Spanish fluently and speak my mother’s tongue, albeit not perfectly, as it’s my second language. I started visiting Chile every year when I turned eighteen. While most families in the US have all their grandparents and extended family around, all my aunts, uncles, and cousins live in Chile.
Last November, I was sitting in the backyard of my uncle’s house at a family BBQ, the smell of meat and smoke in the air, all my favorite dishes laid out, music playing, a light breeze outside. I had a moment where I was able to take it all in, be a witness to what my life would’ve looked like had we lived there. I had a lump in my throat and instantly felt homesick for a place I had never lived in.
Latine heritage month isn’t an occasion I celebrate every month, it’s not something that can be turned on and off. My roots, my family, my love for my country—it’s celebrated and cherished in my heart everywhere I go.
Ximena Gonzalez has been working at Penguin Random House since 2022. She graduated from the University of North Florida in 2015 with a Bachelor’s degree in Communication. She loves to travel and enjoys writing and going to the beach in her spare time.
We are so grateful for all the colleagues who responded to the “What Does Living Latine Mean to You?” OurHouse open call. This week, we will be sharing their personal, heartfelt essays on Ourhouse. Stay tuned for more to come throughout the week and if something resonates with you, be sure to reach out to your colleagues!