by Iemi Hernandez-Kim
My first name is Iemi—not Lemi; I say that because everyone thinks it’s spelled with an L. A lot of awards and certificates that I’ve received say Lemi. It’s Iemi with an i, pronounced like Yeh-Me. But it sounds a lot like Yummy so dudes love to make innuendos such as, “Oh, we’ll find out tonight.” No. Please don’t call me Yummy for the sake of sexual suggestions.
Iemi is spelled in Spanish but it’s Korean for “beautiful art.” I was born in Mexico City to a Mexican father and Korean mother. I’m still trying to figure out why my mother never gave me a non-Korean name. Her non-Korean name is Juliana and her Korean name is Il-Yu; Il-Yu means “only woman.” Since Korean names are too difficult to pronounce for non-Koreans, it’s customary to have your Korean name and then your non-Korean name. My mother says that she purposefully wrote my name in Spanish so she would not have to think of another name. But there’s never been a clear answer as to why she didn’t want me to have two names.
My last name is Hernandez-Kim. Pronounced as Ernandez-Kiim. In Mexico, a last name is “father’s last name-mother’s last name.” When we first came to America, my parents put me down as Hernandez—always pronouncing the H. Whenever I’ve asked my parents about the absence of the second part of my last name, they said that I’ll always be a Hernandez-Kim. But Americans don’t have last names like that, and since we’re in America, that’s what we do. Now that I’m the person with full control of my name, I refuse to change anything.
I’m very adamant about the pronunciation and root of my name because it’s been two years since I’ve been comfortable in my skin. I know that everyone experiences racism. However, I think when mono-ethnic people experience racism, they gain animosity to the race that agitates them the most. When multi-ethnic people experience racism, they grow animosity to their own race. I was constantly ridiculed for being Asian but never received ridicule for being Latina. So, I hated my Asian side with a passion. I thought that being Asian was the worst thing anyone could experience. It’s an awful life hating half of yourself, your family, and your culture. During my sophomore year in college, I was given the Bill of Rights for People of Mixed Heritage by Maria Root. My favorite right is, “I have the right not to justify my ethnic legitimacy.” That was the first time that I completely understood what it means to be a Mexican-Korean-American.
I know my life would be so much easier if I just told people my name is something simple like Amy Hernandez. But no. Iemi Hernandez-Kim is the perfect combination of two beautiful cultures. It’s taken me too long to realize that. You can call me Yummy Lemi Hernandez and I will happily continue to correct you until you get right.
To learn more about Iemi, visit her Vimeo Page.
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.