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(Not) judging by name [video]

When you see the name Maria Aragon, what comes to mind? You might think that I plan on writing about a Latina, but that is not quite the point today. That name belongs to a talented young girl, known for her covers of stars such as Lady Gaga and Bruno Mars and a rising star in Winnipeg, Canada. Despite the impression her name gives, she is Canadian Filipina.

The fact that she’s not Latina shouldn’t be that surprising since the Spanish also colonized the Philippines from 1564 to 1898, which led to Spanish influence in the Filipino culture.

According to there was some confusion on the web regarding this little girl’s nationality and it leads to the question if you ever assume a person’s origin based on their name?

Most of us do at some point, as a way of categorizing the people we meet on a daily basis in order to deal with and process the amounts of information we come across. The act of categorizing the information we process is not a problem, but the way we react to that categorization can be.

In the time Being Latino has existed, we have talked about judging people by their skin color or other physical features and their accents.

The name our parents choose for us is something we come to identify with, something that makes us unique and at the same time connects us to other people who either have the same name or something similar. At times, it might be the first part of us that others meet first. But is it enough to let a person’s name speak for them?

In this day and age, the answer to that question would be no. The reason for that is the ever-shrinking size of the world we live in. Through interaction with other cultures from around the world (whether for business or pleasure) has led to a literal mixing of cultures and there are many people who are a part of multiple ethnicities and cultures.

While some names, such as mine—Morales Kern—hint at the cultural mixology that took place, others do not. It is important to remember that fact and to enjoy the opportunity to learn another person’s story. You never know, you just might learn something new.

About Adriana Villavicencio

Dr. Adriana Villavicencio is the youngest child of Ecuadorian immigrants. She has moved 29 times in her life, taking her on a journey from California to Bangalore, India, and New York City, where she recently earned a Ph.D. in Education Leadership and works as a Research Associate at New York University. An avid traveler, Adriana has collected experiences in four different continents and 16 different countries. But as a former high school English teacher, some of her fondest memories are those of her brilliant and brilliantly funny students in Brooklyn and Oakland. Adriana has contributed to several publications including the Daily News and, and is a managing editor for the Journal of Equity in Education. She earned a B.A. in English and an M.A. in English Education at Columbia University, and currently serves on the board of Columbia’s Latino Alumni Association (LAACU). She enjoys scary movies with red vines, Sauvignon Blanc, and her Maltese dog, Napoleon.

To learn more about Adriana’s education consulting company, please visit

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.


  1. Alexandra says:

    :] *like* I’m Chicana, but people always have something to say when they see my last name..its not Spanish in any way, shape, color, form, or pronunciation..its British…so people see my name, the automatically think “ah, white girl”..then they see me..and I’m not jajaja [lol for you English speakin’ folk!]. Just goes to show you, “don’t judge a book by its cover”!

  2. This is so true. I have heard offensive stores of people with Latino last names but in the end they were not. Can we do the same with first names?

  3. Nicolle Morales Kern says:

    Definitely, I would say the same applies to first names. There you’re not just inheriting your parents names, but might be given something unique and not “traditional” of your culture. Another aspect of first names, is the varieties of spelling and pronunciation.

  4. Well written and well said! I once knew an African American woman whose name was Consuelo and she was the director of a Chicano artist gallery/group I belonged to. This always perplexed people (Ja!) Finally, when someone asked her about her name, she explained that her grandfather had a heavy hand in naming her- it seems a woman by the name of Consuelo had been an old girlfriend of his waaaaay back when. It was also my understanding that grandma (not named Consuelo) had passed away by this time. A name born of passion and love long lost.

    But, how we evolve and stake our claim in the world is another matter.

  5. Nicolle Morales Kern says:

    @Joe Thank you. That’s definitely an interesting story you shared. It is always interesting to discover why parents choose the names for their kids.

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