My name is Ana, my mother’s name is Ana, and her mother’s name is Ana.
In March, as TriMet officers stopped all riders exiting the MAX in Old Town around 1:30 on a Tuesday afternoon, I was arrested, handcuffed, and jailed, because officers said I lied about who I was. Prosecutors, who could have closed the book on this traumatizing incident weeks ago, are continuing to go after me in criminal court because I told the police the only name I’ve gone by my entire life.
Let me tell you the story of that name – Ana.
It’s common in Latin America for firstborn daughters to carry the name of their mothers, and the same goes for sons named after their fathers.
If I had been born in Latin America, my name would have been Ana del Rocío Valderrama Mujica. “Mujica” is my mother’s maiden name.
When my mother was pregnant with me, she wanted to follow this tradition while also giving me a name that represented something new. She chose “Ana del Rocío,” which means “Ana of the morning dew.” A fresh start. I would be, after all, the first person in my family to be born on U.S. soil.
As it turns out, I was born two months prematurely — on August 30, 1986. This happened also to be the day of the patron saint of Lima, Perú, the place of my mother and her mother’s birth. Santa Rosa de Lima. It was also the birthday of my father’s sister, Giovanna. My biological father, without requesting my mother’s permission, unilaterally entered the name in my birth certificate as Rosa Giovanna Valderrama.
My mother was unaware of this change until she returned to the hospital for my vaccines. She told the receptionist that my name was “Ana.” My mother was told that there was no record of a baby born by that name on August 30, 1986.
Unsurprisingly, my parents’ marriage did not work out. Not only did their union end in divorce, but it was also marred by domestic violence, abuse, fear, and terror. My father is a dangerous man that has caused unspeakable harm to his family. To have had a name that he chose for me be publicly used to refer to me by TriMet and others without my permission, has been a deep source of pain, grief, and trauma for me and my family.
My mother and the rest of my family have always called me Ana or Anita. I found out that my legal name was not Ana when I was in high school and needed a passport to participate in a study abroad program. To change a minor’s name in California, both parents’ permission is required. Reaching out to him for permission was not only dangerous, but also not feasible as he had fled the country.
After college I began a treatment program with a therapist, who counseled me through the years of childhood trauma and abuse. With her guidance, I began to drop the use of “Valderrama” as my last name — reclaiming my power and agency over my identity. It hasn’t been a seamless transition, and many of my documents retain my legal last name, but it has been my intention for quite some time to legally change my name when I am ready.
My name is Ana del Rocío, it always has been and it always will be. My name does not conform to the Anglo convention of First, Middle, Last… but that’s not a crime. My name is as beautiful as my mother, my ancestors, and my culture. It is sacred, and I require that it be spelled, pronounced, and used correctly. I will not let police or prosecutors tell me any differently, and that’s why I’m so passionate about defending myself against this charge.
Also Read: "'What's Your Name? Ana del Rocío's TriMet Nightmare" by ACLU of Oregon Legal Director Mat dos Santos.