I did my undergraduate at Ball State University. I am very proud of the education that I received there. But there was one thing that I wished it would have been different. BSU was at the time a sort of like a "local" college, in terms that most of the students there were from Indiana. And at the time, the international population at BSU was very small. Notice that I don't mean the latino population, I mean the international group was small. I remember being at a lunch for international students; there were less than 50 people there.
It is not surprise that the group that by far "mistreated" my name the most were the Americanos. The US students there had little experience with students that were different from them. So, no surprise that "Manuel" was such a foreign name to them (no pun intended). There was this guy who just simply called me "Castro" (as in Fidel). I am not sure what about the Cuban dictator he saw in me. I did not have a beard then and certainly did not wear a military uniform. Nevertheless, I was "Castro" to him.
But the most humorous of all was L.A. Yeah, that was his name, or at least that's what we called him. He was from L.A. and was such a classical L.A. type, that there was no way we could call him anything else. But better, he loved L.A. so much (not sure how he ended up in Muncie), that he insisted we called him L.A. (I think his real name was Jim). Well, L.A. was a "dude" man, you know, the kind that has that surfer accent, has the dirty blond hair, and wears flip-flops even in the snow. He kind of reminded me of Spicoli in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, you get the picture. One day he told me, with his surfer accent, "dude, I can't pronounce your name... do you mind if I shorten it and just call you man?" From that day one, he simply called me "hey man."
Most of the people in CS called me "Manny". Not sure how that came to be, but I kind of liked it. Nobody else has called me that. And they still do, every now and then I get emails from friends in that group, I'm still "Manny" to them. I kind of like that one.
Update: I had forgotten another one. When I went to Ball State, several of us went together from my high school. Carlos, Pedro, Julián and me all played volleyball together in high school and attended BSU together. We put together a team for intramurals at BSU in men's triples. Carlos, Pedro and I quickly started winning, after all we had been playing together since 8th grade. This was quite a shock to many, here are these three freshmen speaking Spanish wildly in the court and beating other teams. Well, one guy just couldn't keep us apart. After all, Carlos, Pedro and Manuel were just generic enough Latino names but at the same time foreign enough for him. So, he just called us all Carlos. All three of us were Carlos to him.
So, call me man, Manny, but don't call me Castro, Carlos, Pedro, Manual or Miguel.
Posted on 10/08/2008
Diversity Humor Latinos