Sep 15, 2022 - News

Why it took me 22 years to include an accent mark in my last name

Illustration of a letter o with a missing accent mark indicated by a dotted line.

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

My colleagues at Axios Latino recently published a great story about why some Latino Americans use accent marks in their surnames, while others don't.

What they found: The reasoning was a mixture of racism, assimilation and technological barriers.

  • My father, for example, stopped adding the accent mark to his last name, Bojórquez, after moving to the U.S. in the 1980s from Guatemala.
  • He told me it became a burden to correct documents and records that —unintentionally or intentionally— removed it.

My story: I didn't start using an accent mark in my last name until I was 22.

Context: There's no accent mark on my birth certificate, but I adopted it after a relative created a family history book tracing the Bojórquez lineage in Guatemala to early-1800s Spain.

  • Taking Spanish classes in college also made me realize its importance in the language.

Why it matters … to me: I'm proud of my Mexican and Guatemalan heritage, and I want to keep the accent mark that's been used in my family for more than 200 years.

  • It also helps inform people how to pronounce my last name and where to place the emphasis.

Yes, but: I've constantly found myself fighting for its place when applying for jobs and setting up social media accounts because it's recognized on computers as a "special character," adjacent to an asterisk or question mark.

  • Some non-Hispanic people I've interacted with in higher education or professional settings think it's optional.

The bottom line: It may be tricky to type it on a keyboard, but that shouldn't stop people from using them.


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