On the door of St. Petronille Church, Glen Ellyn, Illinois

Guadalupe is a common first name in Mexico. In Chicago, I have met both males and females who have this name. My sister’s middle name is Guadalupe. The adult nickname for Guadalupe is Lupe for both genders. Small children are called Lupito or Lupita, depending n their gender.

In Chicago, I knew a male Lupe who hated his name because non-Mexicans had trouble accepting his non-American name. They also mispronounced Lupe as “Loopy.” He hated this. But his name was Guadalupe Gonzalez, so he remained Lupe because he wanted to honor the name his parents had given him. He learned to not only accept his name, but also flaunt it, much to the annoyance of all non-Mexicans within earshot.

When I bought my house in Bridgeport, one of my tenants was named Guadalupe. she was a single mother with three children. As I later learned, only her youngest son was a U.S. citizen. I bought a four-flat because Derby foods was about to close down and move to Sylvester, Georgia. My plan was to rent out three apartments that would pay the mortgage while I was unemployed. All the tenants came with the building. Guadalupe lived in the second floor rear apartment.

Guadalupe spoke hardly any English, but she understood most everything that was said. Her daughters were seven and six years old. Her son César was one. César, coincidentally, was also the name of the previous owner of my house. In fact, I bought my house from him. Well, it turns out that the previous owner was in fact César’s father, but he didn’t even worry about his son’s wellbeing at all. Guadalupe had to go to the welfare office to fill out some paperwork for her son, but she needed a ride and an interpreter. I offered to help her because she was struggling to get by. At the welfare office, I translated the social worker’s questions, which Guadalupe answered. Finally, we get to the question, “Who is César’s father?” Guadalupe has a hard time answering. The social worker turns to me and asks, “Are you César’s father?” “No,” I said. “I’m just her landlord and I was trying to help her.”

One day, she told me she couldn’t pay the rent. She was already about six months behind, but I didn’t have the heart to evict her. Eventually, I told her that I would have to evict her. I just couldn’t afford the mortgage unless all my tenants paid their rent. She was packing up one day when a nun stopped by her apartment to ask for donations. Guadalupe told the nun that she was moving out because she wasn’t working and couldn’t afford the rent. The nun said that her church could help her with the rent and find her a job. The nun talked to me and asked me not to evict Guadalupe and her children. She promised that she would pay all the back rent and find Guadalupe a job.

Well, this was a very agreeable arrangement for all of us. When Guadalupe needed repairs or rooms painted, she would make dinner for me afterwards. She didn’t like that I was always in a hurry to leave, but I was always so busy back then. Once she told me that she wanted her living room painted again even though I had just painted it about three months earlier. I wanted to know why her living room needed to be repainted so soon. She told me that her son had written on the walls with a magic marker and she couldn’t wash the walls clean. I refused to paint again. She told me that if I didn’t paint she would move out. I didn’t paint and she moved out.

I saw her about a year later. she had moved about two blocks away. She wasn’t feeling well. She had another baby a few months earlier and she never fully recovered from the delivery. I asked her if she had gotten married, but she said no. The father of the baby was her present landlord. She was sorry she had moved out from my building. That was the last time I saw her.

The Proposal


In the movie The Proposal starring Sandra Bullock, Ryan Reynolds, and Betty White, there is a character of ambiguous Hispanic descent who appears as a waiter, a bartender, a stripper,and finally a minister. His name is Ramone, as played by Óscar Núñez. That’s right! Ramón with a silent “e” at the end despite the fact that the Spanish name does not end with an “e”! It’s just Ramón! He even spells out his name with an “e” when he’s stripping for Margaret (Sandra Bullock).

Sonia Sotomayor

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor graduated Phi Beta Kappa, The Key Reporter, Fall 2009

We live in a politically correct age. So the media made a big deal when Sonia Sotomayor was nominated as a justice for the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS). She grew up in the public housing and she’s Puerto Rican. The media and politicians always love to point out whenever someone achieves some sort of prominence despite not being a white male (dead or alive) from the privileged class. In that regard, Sotomayor is an overachiever, wise Latina or not. And that’s why she graduated Phi Beta Kappa.

The name Sotomayor is Spanish name composed of two Spanish words: soto and mayor. Soto means thicket, grove, or copse. And mayor means the bigger one. Adjectives generally follow nouns in Spanish. With a name like Sotomayor, you know she has Hispanic heritage.

José y María

Celaya, Guanajuato, México

In Spanish-speaking countries, the two most common names are José and María. Some parents name their sons José María and their daughters María José. My Uncle Eutimio and Aunt Asunción named their sons José Eutimio, José Ricardo, José Carlos, José Ignacio, José David, José Daniel, and José Agustín. They named their daughters María Concepción, María Elena, María Angélica, and María Carmen. They had fifteen children, but I can’t remember all their names right now. When I first met them on my last trip to Celaya, Guanajuato, they introduced themselves as Timio, David, Carlos, Ricardo, etcetera. Later, I heard one cousin call his brother Pepe, which is the nickname for José. I asked my cousin why he called him Pepe and he said that his name was really José. Later on, another cousin called another brother Pepe. This was a different from Pepe from the first one. I asked how they could both be Pepe. Then they explained to me how all the brothers were named José and all the girls were named María. I still don’t understand how they can name them like that, but they did. Afterwards, I thought about how convenient that would be. If you needed something, you would merely shout José or Pepe and you would have at least two or three sons running in to help you. Ditto if you shouted María.

Te presente a mi hermano José María y a mi hermana María José.


2509 W. Marquette Road, Chicago, Illinois

J should have been D. But he wasn’t. He was J. And for a very good reason. My mother said so! Well, I’ve already talked about my mother’s naming process in my previous blog entries. My parents had six children: David Diego, Daniel, Diego Gerardo, Dick Martin, Delia Guadalupe, and Joseph Luis. All of names started with D–except for Joseph (which starts with J and not D, as I’m sure you probably noticed. I have always admired the intelligence of my readers!). The other notable oddity in the naming process is Daniel who has no middle name! I was less than two years old when Daniel was born, so I have no idea why he has no middle name. Were we too poor to afford a middle name for Daniel? Was my mother mad at my father for getting her pregnant again and so she denied my father Diego yet again the opportunity of having a son named Diego? I really don’t know because neither my father nor mother ever talked about how Daniel got his name. To this day, Daniel’s lack of a middle name remains one of the great mysteries of our family.

Before my youngest brother Joseph Luis was born, my parents were in the middle of a hostile separation and later a contentious divorce. How my mother got pregnant was a mystery to me even back then because I hardly ever saw them together for about a year. But somehow she got pregnant. And my father was proud of the fact that he had gotten her pregnant.

However, there was never any doubt the he was my father’s son because when Joseph was older, many people thought he and I were twins. The resemblance was that strong. So how did he come to be named Joseph Luis? Well, he was born in August of 1968, months after our Uncle Joseph, my father’s much younger brother, died in Viet Nam. I remember when my Uncle Placido called to say he had to visit us to tell us something very important. He came after my brothers and I were already in bed, so I knew he had something important to say. I listened from my bedroom, which was right next to the kitchen where they sat. I heard my Uncle Placido say that my Uncle Joseph had died in Viet Nam. I could hear both my mother and father crying. I cried, too, in my bedroom. So my mother named my brother Joseph in his memory. That was actually a very good reason not to follow the D rule in naming us.

Our Uncle Joseph was everyone’s favorite uncle. He loved playing with all his nephews and nieces. Everyone cried when he died. It was the longest funeral procession I had ever seen–and I lived by a funeral home so I saw a lot of funeral processions! My father was one of his pall bearers. The day after the funeral, my father couldn’t get up out of bed. He was paralyzed from the waist down. Whether his paralysis was physical or psychosomatic was never determined, not even by the doctor who came to our house to treat my father. After about a week, my father just got up out of bed and started walking again. He wanted to go to work again.

What happened to D?!


High school Spanish student.

Now that I think of it, I have also had some memorable Spanish teachers in addition to Enrico Mordini at Divine Heart Seminary. My first semester at UIC, I made sure that I registered for a Spanish class. I took a placement test on which I scored poorly. When you sort of know Spanish, as I did then, you manage to talk yourself into the wrong answer many times just because it sounds right. I had to take a second placement test in the Spanish department because I had a Spanish surname, I admitted that I came from a Spanish-speaking family, and I still actually spoke Spanish. Sort of. For the placement test, I had to write in Spanish and explain where I worked and what I planned to do at UIC. This was actually very difficult for me because I only studied Spanish for two years at Divine Heart Seminary and I didn’t really apply myself because I was just a rebellious teenager. I occasionally wrote letters in Spanish to Mexico, but they were usually very short. So I wrote this little essay in Spanish and they placed me in Spanish class for heritage speakers. This class consisted of students from Spanish-speaking backgrounds who sort of knew Spanish, but not really.

I will always remember our first Spanish instructor. She was a teaching assistant from the Dominican Republic named Juana. She insisted that we call her Jenny. I think she wanted to fit in with the rest of the Americans. As a side note, I was always, and still am, amazed by the fact that graduate students would come from Spanish-speaking countries to UIC to study Spanish. Anyway, Jenny was quite a teacher. When we took exams, she would look it over and tell us we might want to look over a certain answer. When I did, I realized that I was wrong and she gave me a chance to correct my mistakes. She came to Chicago in September and she was amazed at how cold it was: about 60 degrees Fahrenheit! The next week, the temperature dropped to about 50 degrees. When I saw her walking to class that 50-degree day, she wore a full-length winter coat, a hat, a scarf, and gloves. She couldn’t believe how cold it was in Chicago. Just as a warning, I told her that it would get much colder in just a few weeks. I also reminded her that it also snowed in Chicago. Once winter arrived, she would only take off her only her hat, scarf, and gloves, but keep her coat on. She would shiver during the whole class. When she graduated with her masters degree, she immediately went back to the Dominican Republic.

Mr. X

And the true identity of Mr. X is ... 

My father always liked to remain mysterious. I always knew him as Diego Rodríguez. At least that was always his legal name, as far as I knew. Sometimes he would receive mail addressed to Diego Rodríguez, Diego José Rodríguez, José Diego Rodríguez, or J. Diego Rodríguez. However, whenever he signed any contract, closing papers, or loan application, he would never sign his name the same way twice in the same document.  Some of his friends who would come looking for him would ask for him by other names such Jim, Jimmy, Joe, José, and sometimes Diego. My  favorite name that my father used was Mr. X. I don’t know how or where he got it, but it certainly fit my father. One day, one of his friends came to our house asking for Mr. X and I didn’t know for whom he was asking. Finally, he asked for my father. When my father came out, he called this visitor Mr. X. So they both knew each other as Mr. X! I don’t think they ever learned each other’s names until it was too late. Years later, my father took me to Mr. X’s wake. Only then did my father learn his name. To this day, some people still call my father Mr. X.

Calling Mr. X!