Wednesday, May 27, 2009

sociocultural globalization

I've spent the morning creating Excel Spreadsheets containing basic medical records of the children in the communities where we do medical campaigns. The communities we work with are made up of indigenous people and are deep in the Andes, far away from the cities. Seriously, far. Buses don't go out there. We have to drive up to three hours on bumpy, windy, treacherous dirt roads to reach some of the communities. Many have no running water. Most of the women my age and older don't speak Spanish because they weren't allowed to go to school as children. Everyone speaks the native language, Quichua. These days most men and almost all of the children in grade school can speak Spanish.

Sometimes when we're working in one of these communities, with people who look like this,

and landcapes that look like this,

I feel like I couldn't get any farther from home. Everything is just so foreign to me. The way they dress, what they eat, what their lives consist of day to day, their aspirated and glottalized language, and the way they say SHHHOOOnathan (jonathan) and aMAUta (amanda).

Then one day, while working in a secluded community, I met a little girl named Jenny and a little boy named Jefferson.

hmmmm.... Now I've never met a Spanish-speaking person named Jenny, let alone Jefferson (as in... Thomas Jefferson? Third president of the United States?). They're all Marias and Carloses and Juans and Adrianas and Agustins. (I'm only slightly exaggerating about that.) So to meet a child whose mother probably only speaks Quichua have that name, surprised me. I was amazed and a little curious. I thought that this must just be an interesting anomaly.

"Wow, what a crazy coincidence meeting a Jenny and a Jefferson in the same day in a little village that couldn't be culturally farther from North America," I thought to myself. "Maybe Jefferson's parents are... American history buffs? Maybe a nice Canadian girl named Jenny randomly came to their village and they liked her so much that they named their daughter after her. How nice." And that was that.

Today, typing around a hundred children's names into the spreadsheets, I realized that Jenny and Jefferson are most certainly not anomalies.

It seems that the majority of young children in these seemingly isolated and far-flung communities carry at least one name that definitely isn't common to their culture nor geographical area. Here are some of my favorites:

Note: these children were all born in 2003 and later. They're six-years-old and younger.)

Anderson Carguachi can't argue that one's not from English.
Nancy Beatriz Lasso Altamirano lots of Nancys
Lizbeth Yungan Criollo tons of Lizbeths
Bridget Veronica Guzñay Huishca
Lizbeth Estefania Guzñay Huishca Stephanie...
Jessica Karina Daquilema Cuñas
Lisbeth Maritza Cuñas Marcatoma
Emily Mishel Guaraca Lasso
Widinson Guillermo Guaraca Marcatoma I'm pretty sure they were trying for an English name... WidinSON.
Byron Adrian Cuñas Guaraca
Jessica Erlinda Daquilema Altamirano
Janeth Paulina Simbaña Marcatoma Janet?
Jenny Maritza Guaraca Simbaña
Roxana Margot Pataron Cuñas
Mayra Elizabeth Guaraca Cuñas
German Oswaldo Condo Lasso the word "German" in Spanish is "alemán"
Norma Janeth Marcatoma Daquilema
Angel Yeferson Marcatoma Lema "Jefferson" with their pronunciation of "j"
Edison Javier Marcatoma Lema
Wilian Israel Pataron Guaraca close, close
Miryan Gladis Yumiceba Marcatoma pretty sure no 4-year-old in the U.S. has this name...
Yessica Estefania Chuquimarca Quingue again with the "j" to "y"
Jefferson Eduardo Marcatoma Condo
Mayra Elizabeth Daquilema Cuñas
Yhoselyn Viviana Daquilema Altamirano I think Jocelyn is of French origin. cool.
Yhon Javier Lema Daquilema John? I guess "Juan" got a little common or boring?
Jhonn Alexander Paltan Daquilema They like putting the "h" before the "o." Jonathan gets "Jhon" a lot
Yeferson Patricio Caguana Simbaña another
Vilma Susana Daquilema Criollo again... I'm pretty sure if your name's Wilma in the U.S., you're 80.
Nancy Maribel Caguana Chuquimarca
Miryan Susana Marcatoma Guaraca
Jhonn G. Quingue Chuquimarca
Franklin W. Guacho Lema
Evelyn Cuji Chuquimarca
Erika Susana Daquilema Caguano
Two more Edisons
Anderson Marcatoma
Bayron David Evas
Darwin Simbaña
Fany Belgica Marcatoma Evas my personal favorite
Fany Huishca
Gladys Malan Simbaña
Jaqueline Capito Simbaña I wonder how they pronounce this one.
Mirian Huishca Criolla
Myrian Lizbeth Guacho Roldan
Yeferson Malan
Yessica Guacho Marcatoma

and last, but not least, my personal favorite (and maybe deserving of its own post),
Jesus Stalin Cuñas Daquilema
(and I'm not kidding)

So, what do you think? Isn't this a fun mystery? I've been brainstorming a little bit about how these names could have infiltrated this indigenous culture.

First of all, I am not exaggerating when I say that every single adult indigenous woman I've ever met has been either María or Rosa. It seems probable that these women are sick of common names. And with all the Marcatoma Guaraca Chuquimarca last names* going around, they are probably feeling that now's the time to bring in some new names. I'm just still stumped about how they heard about Gladys, Fanny, and Wilma. What significance does Jefferson have to them? Do they just like how it sounds? Jessica and Jenny are popular in the English-speaking world, but these people don't have much interaction with English-speakers. With all the little Edisons running around, I wonder if their moms are just that grateful for the lightbulb? Why did Elizabeth turn into Lizbeth in so many cases? And Jesus Stalin? I'm sorry, but WTF?!

While having so many Yessicas and Jennys and Yhonns running around makes me feel just a tiny bit closer to home, I can't help but just be intrigued as to how this happened. I need your thoughts and expertise, people. Help me solve this mystery! Oh, and let me know which is your favorite.


*Most people in Spanish-speaking countries are given four names. If a woman gets married, she takes a fifth. It goes: "first name" + "middle name" + "father's paternal surname" + "mother's paternal surname." If the woman gets married, you add + "de 'husband's paternal surname.'" So my name, in the Spanish world would be Amanda Marie Chamberlain Polatis de(of) Gracey. How's that for a mouthful? Oh and even though I'm married, I'd still be Señora (Mrs.) Chamberlain. No name change.


Jessica said...

That is so crazy! I love that there is a boy named Jefferson! I live in the US and I've never met anyone with the first name Jefferson!
I love reading about your adventures! What a wonderful experience!

Heidi said...

Jesus Stalin? Seriously? That's hilarious! (And random . . .)

James McOmber said...

Amauta, that sounds like such an amazing experience. Probably trippy, too. I'm glad you and Shoonathan get to be in such a beautiful place, doing such great things.

I must admit that Jesus Stalin Daquilema is one for the record books.

Thanks for posting your experiences.

P.S. strangely coincidental and funny that the captcha word I have to type in below (to verify I'm not an android) is "ingles". hahaha.

Michemily said...

My kids are going to have longs names, because I'm not letting go of the "Glauser" any time soon. I know there were some mixings of Nazis somewhere in South America. But there? I don't know . . .

cathy said...

Hmm... I'm going to have to email this post to my friend who is a language expert.I think there may be a US history and television influence. Jefferson, Edison, etc. are from US history. Others might be from television (if they watch television). Like Wilma from the Flinstones or "velma" from Scooby Doo. I might be on to something here because I'm told that in many cultures the women haul water and the men drink and watch American cartoons. Famous Jennys? Jenny Mcarthy. Jenny from Forrest Gump? Alot of these names don't have Spanish counterparts, so it's like the purposefully chose names that sounded foreign.
I'm frankly not surprised with the Jesus Stalin pairing. Oddly, Stalin is still revered in many cultures.
In Russia, people always named their pets American names. We had Cindy the cat.

Scottrbarnes said...

awwwwww, Jesus Stalin is such a cute name. Theophilus Hitler was probably a close second.

Back in the day, when I was in Taiwan, all the lil' kids were named George, Henry, Peter, Stephen, Sally, Jane, etc. I'm pretty sure they picked all their names out of Hardy Boys books from which they learned english.

I remember one girl who demanded we call her "Evil Shadow." Yeah, she was nuts.