I thought I should explain the meaning behind my name-”LaMarichola” which I use across my social media profiles.
A long time ago-10 years ago to be exact-my first job out of college was as a youth organizer working to support the organizing efforts of street vendors in East Harlem. The organization began through the leadership of three Mexican immigrant women who had to confront NYPD police harassment daily. They created an organization, and organized themselves to build an organization that support their advocacy efforts.
I worked with mostly their children, who were growing up watching their single mom’s sticking it to the system. They ranged in ages from 11-19. At the time, I was 21, so our age differences weren’t entirely different. I was tasked to organize weekly meetings, mostly on Fridays to talk about issues that mattered to them. I invited outside speakers to our crammed 6x 4 office space, where we held our meetings.
Over time, I reached out to other youth in the community, or young people I met at events we organized, and wanted to a way to plug in. Initially, the group, known as Suenos del Barrio, identified itself ethnically.
We were all either Mexican born or U.S. born children of Mexican immigrant parents who grew up in NYC. Our issues mirrored the issues we had to confront that were unique to our experiences: immigration, school to prison pipeline, relationships, poverty, sexuality housing, finding and getting jobs to help our parents or ourselves, and dealing with issues of identity.
My name “La Marichola” emerged as an apodo. Growing up, the only names of affection I had were related to my weight: “gorda” or “beba” or to my passivity “sonsa”, “mensa” ,“bruta.” None of these were actually words of affection, now that I think about it. Mari was the short version of my full name Marisol, and it was the preferred way I wanted people to call me.
Chola is defined as a female gangster, which for the group, was not an abstract concept, but a day to day reality. There were female members of the group who belonged formally to gangs or were hooking up with guys who were in gangs.
So when I was called la Marichola, by the youth, I thought it was a riot, since it was apparent to anyone who met me that my reality was far from it. I was sheltered for most of my life, which allowed me to spend my time finding an escape route through the internet or through reading. Eventually college provided a forum to escape as well, but up until that point, I didnt even know how to drink.
Nearly a decade later, I still use La Marichola in all my social media profiles. I am not a gangster by the traditional means, but I aspire to this definition of gangsta, by noted educator.
But there were other connotations to my gangsta apodo:
- Riding high and mighty trying to break through the mold of status quo.
- Being firme with palabra. Eventually I adopted Sandra Cisneros definition of Chingona too.
All are in effect codices to live by, which is affirming because identity and your self, at least for me is fluid, so the codes provide a reminder and a way. You are in effect throwing em into a pot to make your own concoction of who you come to be.
And this is important because naming connotes an opportunity for identity and reinvention.