I was born in Chilpancingo, the capital of the state of Guerrero, México on a clear Saturday afternoon in October. But the story of my birth begins on Thursday, when my mom started having contractions and thought she was ready to give birth. She went to the hospital and they sent her back because her water had not ruptured. She returned to the hospital on Friday – she was sure that this time she was going to give birth. But again, her water had not broken. Finally on Saturday, she could not take it anymore and the doctors decided to break her water and induce my birth.
As a first time mom, my mother was terrified throughout these 3 days. I always kid that I was just not ready to come out! This explains why I do not like to be rushed and why time feels like a social construct to me. I’ve been walking life at my own pace since I was in the womb.
Every time I introduce myself, I get an “Oh! that’s such a unique name, what does it mean?!” I would be lying if I said that I don’t get that question at least once a month as I am meeting new folks. I get so excited when I meet another person with my name, but I have met absolutely no one with the same spelling.
There is an island in the Caribbeans named Montserrat – I hope to visit it one day! My high school French teacher said that the island was French (and indeed it is next to some French territory) and I loved how she pronounced it in French. One time, I was talking to an indigenous Mexican who told me that my name meant “sleeping mountain.” I thought that was appropriate since I am tall.
I finally asked my mom. She said, “Those are cool meanings, but your dad and I didn’t name you that for those reasons.”
In México, there are many saints and virgins that Catholics rely on in times of trial. The Virgin of Montserrat makes miracles for pregnant moms who are in labor and, as you can see, I was a very laborious baby and put my mom and myself in danger. My dad said a prayer on that Friday night to the Virgin of Montserrat to help my mom have a safe birth. After I was born, they decided to drop Maria and Miranda – the names they had been thinking of – and name me Montzerrat instead. They added in the “Z” because my dad thought it would be cool. I don’t think I was a miracle baby, but I do think I have a miracle mother.
Since I could talk, I have called myself “Mon” because, well, that’s all I could really say. Some of my aunts still call me that. I’ve always gone by “Montze” because it’s shorter – I associate “Montzerrat” with my mom calling my entire name when I got in trouble.
The pronunciation of my name in the US has been a real struggle! I’ve learned to be both patient and adamant about having people pronounce my name correctly. I also use both of my last names, Garcia Bedolla, because it’s important to me to carry both of my parents’ history with me. As I grow older, I feel as if I am finally filling in the shoes of this really powerful name.
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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