My son’s friend had to yell in my direction at least three times before he caught my attention. I was caught off guard. You see, I do not use my married name on a daily basis.
Before you judge, you need to read the whole post to understand my unconventional choice.
Don’t get me wrong – I love, respect and appreciate my husband. That man is saint in my eyes. He is my partner and the love of my life. I could say it’s because I am independent or modern or a lifelong feminist. All of those describe me 100 percent! Maybe in the beginning I would have told you those are the reasons that I kept my maiden name.
However, it’s much deeper than that.
My great-grandfather Pomposo Salazar came to this country as a young man to find the American dream. He worked many odd jobs to make ends meet – he even worked as a day laborer. If you do not know what a day laborer is, I challenge you to visit the CAN Center in Kansas City’s Westside neighborhood. Literally, men wait to be picked up by contractors to fulfill labor for the day on a construction site.
His son, my grandfather, Mac, grew up in Kansas City, Kansas, and attended a segregated school. He would often tell me stories of how he could only attend school with other Mexican children; he could only eat at certain restaurants or shop at certain stores because of the color of his skin.
My grandfather had to quit school the summer after 8th grade to help support his family. He never went to high school or had the opportunity to attend college. At 13-years-old, he became a crop worker; picking crops for farmers in Wyandotte County. He eventually lied about his age to become a member of the Civilian Conservation Corps. As a young teen, he lived in Burlington, Kan., and built airstrips for the state. I could not imagine being a child at that age living nowhere near my home or without my parents. My grandfather eventually was drafted in World War II. When he came home, he married my grandmother and they started a family.
My grandfather worked two or three jobs to support his family and to help send his eight kids to college. He instilled the importance of getting an education and making your community a better place in each one of his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. My cousin recently graduated with her Doctorate in Education and my grandfather would be beaming if he were still on this Earth. We even still volunteer as a family, even at that CAN Center.
A part of me is sad that I cannot pass on his name to my children. To me the name is a symbol of my Mexican roots, determination, resilience and strength. That is why I chose to keep my maiden name. I keep my maiden name to honor Macario Ortega Salazar.