Hispanic names need not be in Spanish

By Helena Rodriguez: local columnist

“Marsha” may not exactly be at the top of the list of popular Hispanic baby girl names, like Arianna, Marissa, Aaliyah and Olivia, but maybe “Masa” is.

My friend Marsha Salazar doesn’t know why her mom named her Marsha, maybe after the Brady Bunch show. As the saying goes, “It’s always Marsha — Marsha, Marsha, Marsha!” I get a kick out of telling her that. It’s a good thing she doesn’t have a sister name Jan.

Many people think my friend Marsha’s name is short for Marcella or something Hispanic. I have an uncle Ignacio who goes by the names “Nacho” and “Nash,” an uncle Venancio who goes by “Benny,” and then there’s my mom, Maria Henriquetta, who goes by “Katie.” But as for my friend, her birth name is simply Marsha.

When Marsha’s boyfriend’s sister recently told her baby what Marsha’s name was, the baby called her “Masa.” The mother then corrected the baby, saying, “Not Masa, Marsha.” Now when this child sees Marsha, she says, “Not Masa, Marsha.” And so now I tease Marsha and call her Masa.

Here in the United States, it’s become common for Hispanic girls to have names that don’t sound Hispanic. According to one Web site, Ashley is currently the most popular name for Hispanic girls in New York. I guess many mothers have grown tired of the standard “Marias” and “Anas” and for boys, there must be a billion “Juans” and “Joses” trotting around the globe.

When I was pregnant with my daughter, I was determined to name her Lacey Leann. I thought Lacey was such a beautiful name. However, my dad said Lacey sounded too much like “lazy” and he suggested I give her a Spanish name. Well, I was stubborn and determined to name her Lacey Leann throughout my entire pregnancy, but once my daughter was born, I changed my mind.

Lacey Leann just didn’t feel right, so I changed her name several more times. She was Miranda, then Stephanie, then Gracie and then Monica.
Finally I settled on Laura, pronounced with a Spanish accent, Laura Micaela. Laura is a name that means “flower,” but I actually chose it after the names of two songs by Mazz, which was one of my favorite Tejano bands back then. But no matter how you pronounce Laura, it’s a name that sounds beautiful in both Spanish and English.

I’ve also heard about non-Hispanics giving their children Hispanic names like Rosa, Alma, Selena, Thalia and even Shakira. Then there are those names that are uncommon no matter which language it is pronounced in, but some of them are kind of cute, like Sky and Heaven.
Then there are also those just plain weird names, like Apple, which movie star Gwyneth Paltrow named her daughter. In Spanish that would be “Manzana.” Now that sounds kind of cool. Maybe Manzana will catch on, just like Masa.

Helena Rodriguez is a columnist for Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico. She can be reached at: