“Le esta saliendo lo López”
A phrase often heard and whether the recipient who it was intended for, took it as a compliment or insult, was up for interpretation.
I’ve heard this phrase myself anytime my stubbornness or wrath came out.
I’ve taken pride in carrying the significance of the name, because in this family, it means you don’t let people push you over.
But I’ve also felt the weight of that name on my shoulders.
So what does it mean to be López?
Well of course I looked, because names carry meanings and I wanted to know what my last name meant and if it mattered anything to me.
Turns out López is derived from Lobo the Spanish word for wolf. Why a whole family was named after wolves, I’m not sure. Were we a wealthy family and our crest was the wolf and we became “The Lopez“? Did we make a living hunting wolves? Did we come from an area known for the wolves that lived nearby? I can’t say I have any answers. But I can speculate.
I’m not sure when I looked into wolves why I thought they were solitary animals. I had the idea of a “lone wolf” in my head and clinged to that idea as some explanation of my preferences and name.
But I was wrong. Wolves, at least the Mexican wolf and the Iberian wolf (from Spain), are social creatures. They move in packs.
I like to think we’re named after the Mexican wolf. It’s just very coincidental that where that side of the family is from coincides with the original habitat of the Mexican gray wolf. Places so unheard of, not even Google can locate it. It has a bit of a tragically romantic ring to it, this Mexican wolf pushed out of it’s territory, and much like my family out of it’s original home.
But I’m not here to explain to you the endangerment of gray wolves or their behavior…..
I had been avoiding one side of the family for the last few years. I said I was busy but really it was a lot of different moving agents:
I had found out some past family history that made me feel betrayed from it being withheld from me for so long
I had recently become a single mother and felt I had let everyone down
I had to state to family that I didn’t want a specific member of the family knowing my whereabouts or ever communicating with me
I was tired of being triggered every time his name came up in conversations with that side of the family
A lot of it was I needed to do some healing. After all, he was what tied me to them in the first place, and the connection was going to be painfully apparent. My cousins and I share last names for a reason.
And most of all, I was scared. Scared that what it meant to be Lopez meant that I was like him. Remember how I said Lopez in this family means you’re stubborn and easily angered? Those were the same traits that made me cringe.
I remember as a child, people said to me that I looked more like him. I remember my mother telling me that people would say that to her as if it would cause her pain. She thought I was beautiful, the fact that I had an obvious facial marker that he also had was not related. They were coincidences. Beautiful. That’s what I was to my mom. A sponge was also thrown in there from time to time, you know to say that my brain was like a sponge, because I learned so quickly. But it was always beautiful.
I think that’s what I was so angry about, I didn’t feel beautiful, I had the same crooked smile, the same lunar, and the same stubbornly thick straight hair as him. When people looked at my face, they saw him. They even said I walked like him. And the last thing I wanted to be reminded of, was him.
Back to the present, I had thought about changing my name to my mothers maiden name, Salas. Part of me was telling myself that it was a feminist win to start a new family lineage carried by the names of the mothers. You know like those tribes where it’s the matriarchs of the family that hold the social power, that make decisions for the family, and ensure that their names live on. But deep down I knew that wasn’t why I’d be doing it.
If I changed my name to Salas it was because I was running. Running away from the past, running away from those memories and those ties, and running away from the character I was afraid of becoming.
I’d gotten used to running away. I ran away in my books, imagining places so far away from my reality, I ran away from home, going to college and hardly coming back to visit, I ran after jobs thinking that jobs elsewhere had the secret magic that would bring me happiness, and I ran away from my family, not having seen my grandmother or any of that area of Mexico and much of the family that lived there since I was 11. I was good at running away. Those places and the places associated with those memories triggered feelings I was desperately trying to avoid to survive, to not go insane. And I was scared of going insane, but I sure broke some hearts and my own in the process.
I have nightmares that I’d be capable of doing the same things he did. Whenever I catch myself being too critical, too harsh, too angry, too emotional, I cringe. Where he is wrathful, erratic and selfish, I wanted to be thoughtful, calm, and selfless. I can think of decisions I’ve made in my life that if you didn’t know better you would think it was my sole purpose to be the opposite of him. Where he liked math, I took no interest in excelling in it, where he was gregarious to the point of deception, I was demure. Where he liked the spot light, I chose interests where I could hide in a crowd, where he was traditional, I pushed to be unconventional. I know that slowly my experiences pushed me in different directions, but I have wondered, how much of that was my personality and how much was my unconscious attempt to not be like him.
But if I’m being honest here, and I’ve been very honest so far, I am stubborn, I get angry, I like performing in front of a crowd, I love dancing and singing, and I think those things make the López lineage beautiful. We are a resilient, hardworking bunch. And when we want to, we are a down right hoot. Rambunctious. Bodacious. Living life.
My grandmother was an orphan, she ran away from living with her sister to marry my grandfather and together they built their home with their hands and worked the land for 50+ years and had a family that has opened their hearts and arms to my mother, sister and I, when they could have quickly shunned us.
Where my grandmother ran into the love she had for my grandfather, I would be running away from love if I chose to run away from this last name. And I refuse to crumble to nothingness. Part of it is stubbornness, but part of it is how my mother taught me to fight. We will carry the weight of our pain, only to make us stronger so we can do greater things for others.
Coincidentally both my grandparents last names were López. So refusing her name is refusing her history as well. Her fight, her success.
God knows to give us things or withhold things from us if we’re not ready for them. And I couldn’t keep ignoring the other half of my family’s presence. God knew to start opening my heart to my family again. Where there were grudges, I was learning a lesson in forgiveness and healing.
For so long, carrying this last name, came with shame. But I have turned around to thinking that being a Lopez does not mean that I am him. I am not him because I am a López.
I am resilient, I am quick on my feet, I use my anger to push me into action to create better change, and I am stubborn as hell to get what I want. Where Lopez meant trauma, pain and shame, I’m using it to make sure that wherever I walk you will know that López means I cannot be knocked down.
I will not be knocked down, I will not be defeated because there are great a many things I need to do for others. One other in particular.
And his name is López.