Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | May 21, 2012

Names That Stick

Santa Fe, New Mexico en route to Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

For anyone who happens to have a particular interest in names, New Mexico and Colorado have more than their share of places with interesting names. The names of so many places in these two States can be traced back hundreds of years to the days of the early Spanish explorers who gave them their monikers. This morning Dad and I drove down Cerrillos Road to visit San Miguel Church on Old Santa Fe Trail before heading out of town via Paseo de Peralta. On our way to Colorado we drove past villages with names like San Felipe and towns with names like Aztec. Once we crossed the border into Colorado we drove past the beautiful Rio de las Animas Perdidas (River of Lost Souls) on our way to Durango (from a Basque word translated “water town”), the county seat of La Plata (Silver) County. From Durango we headed west to Mesa Verde (Green Table) National Park where we will visit the Anasazi ruins.

Because my Dad and I are both interested in names, we could not help but talk about all of the interesting place names along our route. All of this talk about names got Dad to reminiscing about the nicknames of kids he grew up with in the small south Texas town of Mission. He told me that the kids tagged with nicknames were soon known all over town by those particular names. He told me the story of “Beto (Roberto) el Pelon” or “Robert the Bald.” After a particularly bad episode with lice, Roberto’s mom shaved his head. From that time on he was known as “Beto el Pelon.” And then there was the kid named “El Chicle” (The Gum) because he always chewed gum at school. A kid who was a good swimmer was called “El Catan” (a name of a fish). I particularly liked the story of “El Gozon” or “The Joyous Kid” — so named because he was always in good spirits. There are so many more names I jotted down but you get the idea. The names that each of these kids was given by friends and family stuck, even into adulthood, just like the names that the early Spanish explorers gave to so many places in the Southwestern United States.

Thinking about how places and people get tagged with particular names reminded me of the first encounter between Jesus and a fisherman named Simon. When Simon’s brother Andrew introduced him to Jesus, Jesus saw something in him that others could not see. As a result Jesus gave Simon a new name, a nickname that stuck. Jesus told Simon that He would be known as Peter, a name that means “rock.” Jesus did not give Simon that name because he was already a rock but because Jesus saw in him the potential to become a solid and dependable individual. It took time for Peter to demonstrate any rock-like qualities but eventually he did become the man that Jesus had envisioned he could become. Talking and thinking about names today has also caused me to reflect on what new name Jesus might have for me. Would it be a name suggested by a particular character trait or flaw or something accomplished or yet to be accomplished? I don’t know. But I do know that I will be known and remembered for something — we all will. It’s up to me to make sure that when someone hears or sees my name that I am known and remembered for the right things and for having faithfully served the purposes of God in my generation. I want for the name that sticks to me to be a good one!

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