Fun Facts: I was supposed to be a boy and throughout my mom’s pregnancy with me, she called me Ricky. I have 10 nicknames and I answer to all of them (Trina, Trinabell, Tinabell, Tina, Boo Boo Face, Tina La Boo, Tinker, Tinkerbell, Trin, and Catrin). These come from aunts, uncles, and older cousins. Each nickname is special to me, but I use Trina most often. It is how I am known to many friends and I introduced myself to my partner as Trina.
In my culture – and especially in my family – a nickname is just ingrained and expected. I have a cousin we call Nana, another cousin we call Chonito; one we call Torin and another we call Tapitas. This is normal for us and for the other Mexican-American/Chicano families we grew up with and around. It is both familiar and loving. I remember being young and being out with my cousin Torin and heard someone call him Hector. I was extremely bewildered and upset, I felt he was being disrespected or was being confused for someone else. I relayed this to my mom, who just laughed.
I have 10 nicknames, each of them special, each of them given to me without hesitation. Each one of them is used in conversations between family members, everyone using the nickname they invented or like the most. Even now as a grown woman with children and bills, I’m Boo Boo Face to my aunt. She said once, “It’s not because you were an ugly baby. It’s because you made the funniest faces.”
My uncle Jose Amador or “Amao” (see? Nicknames for EVERYONE!), who was like my dad, was the only one who ever called me Catrin. For the 20+ years I had him in my life, I have no memory of him ever using my real name. The only time there was any deviation from Catrin was when he called me “Mi Reina” (my Queen).
My grandma never used any of my nicknames. She would often scold my uncle for calling me Catrin and become annoyed with people calling me anything other than Katrina. For her, I was La Katrina. Never anything else, or anything less.
For every nickname I have been given there is a story or sentiment behind it. Gifts from my mom have often been reminders of them. I still have a chain with a small bell around it. This, of course, is for the Trinabell/Tinabell names.
My cousin Teri used to gift me Tinkerbells from the Peter Pan cartoon and of course for the Tinkerbell nickname.
A name can be powerful, however throughout my existence, it has become a source of love as well.
Being named is often the first act of distinguishing us as individuals when we come into the world. The stories that surround them – how they were chosen, what they mean to our families and to us, how they transform into nicknames – can hold a lot of significance and insight into family history and legacy, as well as who we are as people.
That’s why we launched “The Story of My Name Series,” sharing the naming stories of YLI staff. YLI is not a monolith – we are a collective of diverse individuals with multiple and intersecting identities, backgrounds, personalities, and life stories. Although many of our programs follow a similar youth development framework, our approaches – the shape and feel of our work – are deeply informed by who we are.
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