Wednesday, November 9, 2016

My Last Name is Cortes

My Last Name is Cortes

My last name is Cortes
No I am not Hispanic
I tell my doctor who walks in the room
Who is surprised to find a petite, tan, Asian looking girl who hasn’t been feeling well for several days

 My last name is Cortes
Because I am a Filipino-American
Because the Philippines was a Spanish colony for 300 years
I tell my Uber driver
Who is confused why I am not Latina

 My last name is Cortes
I explain to my Sales mentor
It is my senior year of college and I am in the Sales program in the business school
My Sales mentor is in awe that I speak so well
And that I don’t have an accent

My last name is Cortes
Because my parents immigrated to this country
Because my grandfather fought for the Americans and the Filipinos during WW2
Because of my grandfather and my parents sacrifice
I am here today

My last name is Cortes
And though my parents speak English fluently
The customer service representative at the cell phone store
Turns to me, speaks to me
To communicate to my parents

 My last name is Cortes
And when I landed my first big corporate internship in college,
I was ecstatic
My mother was also ecstatic and she sat me down for a pep talk
Because when she walked through the doors of corporate America 25 years ago
As a young, newly immigrated Filipino-American accountant,
A co-worker told her that she didn’t know that
“Monkeys could do accounting”
She feared I might experience the same comments

 My last name is Cortes
And in countless work meetings
I am the only woman, the only person of color, and the only person under 30
I may not face the same explicit racist comments my mother had to deal with
But I do know I am not the norm

My last name is Cortes
And all my life I knew I was different
I stay tan year round but my parents wanted me to stay light skinned
I grew up without Asian-American models in billboards or representing major fashion brands
I spoke a different language at home
I have a do or die attitude and I feel like I cannot let myself or my family fail
And I’ve tried so hard to level myself to an equal playing field in my career and education

 My last name is Cortes
And though I’ve faced implicit attitudes and daily micro aggressions
I have never faced explicit racism
Like my parents have

 My last name is Cortes
And I fear that one day these implicit attitudes will become explicit actions
Fueled by hate, discrimination, sexist, and prejudice notions

My last name is Cortes
And though I understand people wanted major political change in electing him,
I’m devastated that my country has chosen him
Regardless of his dangerous rhetoric
I’m devastated that a man with 0 political experience was elected to lead this country
While I fight my way for just a seat at the table

 My last name is Cortes
And because I am different
I know I can relate to many others
Who may share experiences of micro aggression
Who may share experiences of being a minority
Who understand the frustration of trying to get to an equal playing field
Who have to constantly explain “where they are from”
Who may share the experience of being a woman

 My last name is Cortes,
And whether their last names are Peterson, Kato, Changela, Umetin, or Varkey
I know our differences will unite us
And one day my friends, my peers, my colleagues
Will be future lawyers, future executives, future doctors
My friends who are Muslim, who identify with the LGBT community,
My friends who are white, black, and brown
Will shatter the glass ceiling
Will advocate for human rights
And will create a leadership, a government
That is representative of America

We will challenge, we will unite
We will use love to trump hate
And we will be proud to claim a last name like Cortes.


  1. Emma-

    You give me confidence in our future. Thank you for your words and your spirit.

    -Ms. Gall

    1. Wow thank you so much for reading the post Ms. Gall! I hope you're doing well :)

  2. Just beautiful. Thank you for your vulnerability and honesty, my Filipina sister! The world needs your words.
    -Leilani Raglin

    1. Thank you so much Leilani :) I appreciate your kind words!

  3. Thank you for sharing this. It is beautiful, and it is strong women like you who will help fight the hate that has become so loud.

    1. Aww thank you so much Bailey! You are so sweet. Thank you for reading the post!