My birth certificate has my name as Ricardo Montoya. It also says “white” but I need not deviate from my subject. The name took me through grade school. When I got to Junior High, I started using the name, Richard. It sounded nicer that Ricardo. All through high school, it carried me, although a certain speech teacher in High School chided me on its use. So from then on and into the workplace, I was known as Richard Montoya to just about everyone.
It helped me to create a persona that fit well into the work world. It also put a barrier between me and my heritage. I lived in a city that was ninety-five percent Spanish speaking but my Spanish was really bad! The Texas school system had a lot to do with my dismal ability with my grandparent’s’ language. It forbade the use of Spanish in the classroom and even punished it. So it is no wonder that I was so disconnected from it. While I was at it, another schism took place. That being my drifting away from the Catholic Church. More on that in some other blog when I have the time.
So Richard Montoya became my persona. It got me jobs and was a way to support my family in a way that the Mexican Ricardo Montoya could not. Or so I thought. But for some reason, my Speech Teacher’s words came coming back to me! You see, along with my American name, I had managed to acquire a Texas drawl! He critiqued me on this saying something like it false and that I was still had the same dark Mexican buttocks that I had always had. It did not stop as I thought that his comments were funny, and not really all that offensive. For some reason, maybe his ability to tell it like it is that I admired him. But his did have a point.
So there I was in the work world making very good progress having left the world of my grandparents behind me. There was little left to connect me with that legacy. After seeing the movie Roots, I started thinking about my own. The grandmother that raised me had many stories to tell me about my roots. But I was too busy to listen, and probably not understand her stories. So she passed and the knowledge about my ancestors went with her passing.
It was only while I was in San Antonio, Texas that the error of my ways confronted me. I had flown there from El Paso as part of an orientation of machine opperator on some new semi-automated equipment. I started to go through my spiel with this blond blue eyed young lady and had gone through roughly fifteen minutes of the lecture. Just then, the girl stopped me telling me that she only spoke Spanish. I was so embarrassed to find that as much as I tried, I could not convey the same information in Spanish. It struck me very hard, realizing that I had lost much more than my ability to speak Spanish but that I had lost my connection with my heritage! It was then that I vowed to myself to make every effort to learn to speak Spanish and to search for my roots.
It may be too late to find my roots but I have made progress with the language. You might say that it is a work in progress.
Ricardo Montoya Ochoa