November 13th, 2009
11:24 AM ET

The day my name got changed

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.l.cnn.net/cnn/2008/POLITICS/02/15/latinos.gop/art.latinovoters.gi.jpg]

Rudy Ruiz
Special to CNN

The case of the New Mexico hotelier who required Latino employees to adopt English names and avoid speaking Spanish at work reminds us of the need for balance as we grapple with cultural evolution in America.

Many of us take our name and its pronunciation for granted. I imagine I did too - until I was 5 years old.

That's when my dad dropped me off on the front porch of Sunnyside School in Brownsville, Texas, the border town where I was born and raised. Like any kid on his first day of school, I was engulfed by longing and loneliness, staring forlornly at my dad through the screen door as he walked away.

When I turned to face the classroom, the teacher's mouth moved and I heard words, but I failed to understand. Tears pricked my eyes. I didn't speak English yet, having been home with my mom up until that first day of kindergarten.

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