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Jorge on Becoming George

Saturday, November 14th, 2009

“I was born Jorge, but I became George in fourth grade when I had my first white teacher. He looked at my name and decided to call me George because it was easier for him. Now, everyone calls me George, except for my family. After all this time, I feel like I am more of a George than a Jorge.

“I grew up in Columbia Heights. My parents are from El Salvador. They came to the area 22 years ago and have lived in Columbia Heights for 14 years. They came to DC for a better life. My Dad gave up a small business in El Salvador to come here. My Mom was poor in El Salvador and came here to make some money for her family and then go back home. But, my parents met here and they decided to stay.

Now, I do my English thing when I am out here with my friends. But, at the house, it is always Spanish.

“Growing up in both environments was great. As a kid, my friends were all kids whose parents knew my parents in El Salvador. These families created their own El Salvadorean network here in DC. My English only started to pick up later in my childhood as I was only surrounded by Spanish as a child. At home, we speak Spanish. Now, I do my English thing when I am out here with my friends. But, at the house, it is always Spanish. My parents are really strict about that.

“The last time I went to El Salvador was 18 years ago. The whole territorial gang violence down there is really hectic so I haven’t been in a long time. So, I don’t really feel a connection to the land of El Salvador, but I do feel a connection to the people and culture. See, I did the whole public school thing in DC which was tough. Fortunately, I went to a charter school for high school. As I was the only Spanish speaking kid there, it made me feel more Latin because I had to represent. That experience really helped to shape my identity.”

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