What’s in a name?

My dad’s side of the family is Mexican; my great grandmother came from Coahuila. My maternal great grandfather came over on a boat from Lithuania.

I’m the only one in my dad’s family that attempts to honor any sort of cultura mexicana. I’ve celebrated Dia de los Muertos for several years, complete with homemade sugar skulls, pan de muerto y un ofrenda. I had to learn about this tradition from a project I did in a college Spanish class – not my family. After the death of mi abuela last summer, I brought my Dia de los Muertos supplies home and set up my altar there; it was then that I felt like my family really understood what I was doing and why.

Some of my cousins on my dad’s side dismiss their Hispanic heritage; instead, they claim their mom’s Irish roots. They celebrate all things Irish, and I respect that completely. But a part of me cringes every time I hear them say our last name: they pronounce it “VAIR-uh” instead of “VAWR-uh”.

Okay. I get that a lot by people who don’t know me. I’ve even come to expect that I’ll have to correct people. And as soon as I do, the next sentence out of their mouth is always, “Oh, so you’re Hispanic?” I also get that same comment when I mention my hometown is San Antonio.

But my cousins, who are just as biologically Hispanic as I am, are the ones doing the butchering. So just what is it that makes someone Hispanic?

Clearly more than just un nombre.