My parents, being from Mexico, unconventionally spelled my name “Alexandra” instead of “Alejandra.” My mother would make the point that Mexico, in Spanish, was pronounced “meh-hee-coh”—meaning, the “x” had a “j” sound (the “j” sound in Spanish is equivalent to the “h” sound in English). Although, to be fair, the “x” in every other Spanish word has the “ks” sound (conexión, xilófono, etc.).
Most of my life, growing up in the United States, my name was pronounced the American way (or Russian way, I suppose), with the “x” having the “ks” sound. And even though native Spanish speakers objected to the unorthodox spelling of my name, they still pronounced the “x” with an “h” sound.
To match my dual-culture life, I also had a dual-name, pronounced one way in Spanish and another way in English. And for the most part, those worlds did not overlap. The Spanish version of my name was used amongst my family members and (mostly) exclusively Latino circles. If people were confused as to which to call me, I’d give them the option of whatever they were most comfortable pronouncing.
Then, a funny thing started happening. I started dating a Latino for the first time in my life (see “Why I Never Dated a Latino“ on my old blog). He pronounced my name with the “h” sound, naturally, but as we both have Latino and non-Latino friends, our non-Latino friends started to know me as Alexandra with an “h” so they started to pronounce it that way, too.
And then a funnier thing started happening. Without giving people the option by letting them know I had an English and Spanish version of my name, Latinos began calling me Alexandra with a “ks” sound and non-Latinos began pronouncing it with the “h” sound. Even random strangers, after seeing it spelled, would do this…people who worked at cash registers who saw my name on my credit card, people I’d have meetings with who had seen my name through email exchanges.
I’m not sure what all this means, except that perhaps as I become a less undercover Mexican, the Spanish-speaking side of me must be shining through in some kind of way that people are tuning into, even if subconsciously.