what's in a name anyway? everything.
I'm keeping this message short + sweet.
(I know that's not my forté, but I'll try my best.)

In the wake of Hilaria Baldwin's name debacle—Is that Hillary with two "l's" or Hilaria with one?—I thought it was only fitting I address my own name debacle. Josephine or Josefina? Jose or Josie?

Why? We never asked? I know. I know you didn't. But maybe, just maybe, I'll one day become a household name and this post will clear my name! (Hear the sounds of my five children and husband chuckling behind my back.) But seriously, I guess I want to address it for my own sake. Because while Hilaria has been accused of cultural misappropriation, our names mean everything. They are the keepers of our identity. Real quick, back to Hilaria, I just want to state for the record that I personally get her love for Spain and empathize with her identifying with another culture. I think we can all agree there's a reason buried somewhere in her childhood that she felt the need to reinvent herself. Maybe she didn't fit in. Shoot, when I was in the third grade, I didn't. I went to a new girls private school in Pittsburgh. I was so nervous to start a new school that I'd planned a week of outfits, all pink and green because I thought that's what it meant to be preppy—something my Argentine family never was, never had been, never will be. I also told everyone my middle name was Stephanie. Never mind it's Ursula, but I'd spent many hours day dreaming at my desk that I'd raise my hand and the teacher would call on me, "Yes, Steph." It was so American. It was so simple. It was everything my family wasn't. I even thought I'd gotten away with it, until a couple of years later at a sleepover at my house my mom got mad at me for some reason or other and started yelling for me, "Josephine Ursula Caminos, you come downstairs now to speak to your father and me!" That was it. The charade was over and the only one left with the name Stephanie was my blonde hair, blue-eyed Cabbage Patch kid. Lucky her.
So what's my point? (Okay, I admit, this is teetering on no longer being short.) My point is that while we poke fun at Hilaria or Hillary, there's a much larger issue at play here. Our names really do mean everything to us—and to those who know us or at least think they do. That's why people feel such deception when they find out the name we go by may not be the same one listed on our birth certificate. So while I'd like to take Hilaria herself out of the conversation, I do think her recent name debacle opens up a really good conversation that often plagues children of bicultural families—regardless of their birthplace. And that's that we are fully neither, nor fully both.

My parents were in their respective late twenties and early thirties when they moved their young family of five children from La Plata, Argentina to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1974. I was six months old. My real name is Josefina Ursula Caminos.(With a silent 'J' that sounds more like an 'H' and 'U' that sounds like double 'O's'.) It’s still the one listed on my Argentine passport. Once I started school, my mom thought it would be easier for my fellow classmates to say Josephine with a hard “J”. And it stuck. When I was older, she confided in me that she didn’t like the way they pronounced HOE-zefina. She was raising me to be a lady.

Since then, I've lived between two worlds: Josefina and Josephine. My parents always called me both. In reality, my mom called me Josie or JoJo all my life, but I'll get to that later. My abuelos Alfredo and Dorita and extended Argentine family always called me Josefina or Jose (meaning Josie in Spanish, not José with an accent on the 'e'). What confused me most was when we'd visit Argentina for the holidays and people in Argentina who didn't personally know me would purposefully call me 'Josephine' after I'd introduced myself to them as 'Josefina'. Didn't they believe me? Did they think like Hilaria I was trying to take ownership of a name that wasn't my own? Of a culture that wasn't my own? Did they see me as an imposter? Because, I did.
Then there was my friends. All my life they'd called me Josephine. When they discovered my middle name wasn't Stephanie, they shrugged it off. They knew there was more to me than my name Josephine. And that's what they continued to call me. Until I went to college at Duke University and confessed to my older sisters that I was going to tell people my name was 'Josie'. I don't know what had gotten into me. Maybe I'd become enamored of the idea of livin' la vida low country in the Carolinas, but I too must have been in need of a reset, or new beginning. All my life I'd lived between these two names, but I didn't identify with either. Just like trilling my double 'r's' never came to me naturally—a dead giveaway that part of my bicultural heritage simply didn’t translatesomewhere deep down I'd always felt I was fully neither, nor fully both. At home, in Pittsburgh, I was considered Spanish or Argentine, but in Argentina, I was branded “la Yanqui,” whose Levi jeans hung a little too loose for their own liking. 

My sisters, who growing up often called me 'Brat' (rightfully so) liked the idea. "Josie it is." My friends did too. I was Josie with a fresh start. Neither Argentine. Neither American. Just Josie from Pittsburgh, PA. Until my cover was ripped off me one Friday night as my friends and I sat drinking beer in our dorm. There must have been twenty or thirty of us just hanging out when one of the girls mentioned to me that she had run into a guy I'd went to high school with. "That's cool," I told her, explaining that even though we'd both gone to Shady Side Academy together back home, we barely knew one another. That's when the girl stood up and told everyone she had an announcement, and stood up, announcing that they'd all been duped. The room went quiet. "Josie here," she continued, waving her red Solo cup at me, "Isn't Josie at all. Her real name is Josephine. And I have a first-hand eyewitness who went to school with her that no one back at home calls her Josie. So, Josephine, what do you have to say for yourself?" Nothing. Nada. Well, maybe just that my real name isn't actually Josephine either. It's Josefina. But the timing wasn't right. It would've muddied the waters even more. But here it came again. I tried to shove back any feelings of who am I really that haunted me as I sipped my beer, while some of my good friends tapped my back, asking, "Hey, do you want us to call you Josie? That's cool with us." I shrugged my head 'yes'.But it was a stark reminder that I couldn't run away from my dual and often dueling cultures. My friends didn't get that. Why should they? But I know there are other bicultural immigrants who must relate. At home we are considered different. But when we go back to our mother country, we soon find out we don't fit in there either.
It took me falling in love with and marrying an Argentine man, Gastón, to get over my imposter syndrome and come to peace with both of my cultures. So, who am I? I'm an Argentine-born girl from Pittsburgh who goes by many names, who's worn the same Anais Anais perfume since the sixth grade, and who feels in another life she must have lived among the South Carolina marshes, because the vast grasslands somehow seeped into my soul at birth. I don't have a Southern accent. And when I go to Argentina, I'm often reminded that my American accent slips in here and there. I don't have a Spanish accent either. Some even say my Pittsburghese makes an appearance every once in a while. And I'm okay with all of the above. I'm okay living in Spanglish, with a side of Yinzer. And that's how Im raising my five children—to embrace all of the above.

Today I go by Josephine, Josie, Jose, Josefina, even Gorda...and I embrace each one of my many personalities and cultures. My husband, Gastón, the one nearest and dearest to me sees me as 100% Argentine, and only calls me Mi Amor, Gorda or Jose. (Josefina if we are fighting.) My sisters continue to call me Josie, sometimes Joe. But they are the only ones allowed to do so. It still really irks me that people in Argentina continue to call me Josephine even after I introduce myself as Josefina. I want them to call me that, but I don't think that's going to change at this point. It is my real name, after all. But then again, so is Josephine. As for my band of best friend chicas, they simply call me their friend. And that's all that matters.

What really sticks out in my mind is that this Hilaria or Hillary name debacle is so much more than a name debacle. It really gets to the heart of the matter—the otherness many growing up feel. My longing to fit in and belong for the better of my life inspired my latest culinary memoir, Sobremesa: A Memoir of Food and Love in Thirteen Courses. Like my bicultural heritage, sobremesa—time spent sitting at the table well after the food is gone—doesn't have a direct English translation. Like me, it's sin traducción. The attempts at translations—the literal: “over the table,” the subjective: “the post-meal equivalent of pillow talk,” the succinct: “table talk,” among others)—described it, barely. One might suggest this is because the topic is too narrow or foreign. I beg to differ, as sobremesa taps our commonalities: the need to eat, the desire to share, and most importantly, the longing to belong. Today, I want to share this part of my Argentine culture with my American friends and counterparts who I feel could benefit from taking ownership of a bit of my Argentine culture. There's no better compliment than someone wanting to be a little Argentine. Some might say my take on Argentina is Americanized. That it's not authentic, and try to expose my not so perfect Spanish. And that's okay too, because my story is authentically me. I imagine my story's underlying premise of “otherness” will not only speak to first generation immigrants, but anyone who has straddled two cultures, ethnicities, or races. Or anyone, possibly like Hilaria, who is simply looking for their place at the table. With SobremesaI aim to move the current in our collective cultural conversation forward by producing an intimate portrait of my bicultural family. The current cultural divide gripping our nation has brought to the forefront the ethnically charged question, What does it mean to be Bicultural in today’s America

Okay, so apparently I don't do short. I promise I'll try better next time. But, seriously, won't you continue this conversation and join me at the table? Sobremesa is available today for pre-order, but you don't have to wait to read it. Simply pre-order my culinary memoir, Sobremesa: A Memoir of Food and Love in Thirteen Courses HERE, and we'll send you a complimentary Advance Reader Copy today. You'll then receive the final hard copy of Sobremesa in May, just in time for Mother's Day. Just send a copy of your receipt and address to this email with "Preorder and ARC" in the subject line. (While supplies last.)

Have you ever wished your name was another? Or wanted to go by something else entirely? I'd love to hear from you. Just email me. I'd also love to hear if you bought the book and what you think. Your support means the world to me!

With love, te quiere,
Josephine Caminos Oría
President and Founder
Author, Sobremesa: A Memoir of Food and Love in 13 Courses (Scribe Publishing Co., May 2021) and Dulce de Leche: Recipes, Stories & Sweet Traditions (Burgess Lea Press, 2017) 
Early praise for Sobremesa:

Sobremesa takes us inside Josephine’s kitchen where we get the chance to explore her unique culinary journey and her beloved Argentina. Josephine’s story tells us about a side of Argentine cuisine and eating culture that isn’t usually written about: the importance that family, friendship, delicious food, and vino have at the table. A delight to read that will warm your corazón.”Allie Lazar, Argentina-Based Freelance Eater and Writer, Creator of Pick Up the Fork Food Blog

“As a young girl, I enjoyed Josephine. But even more, I have loved meeting Josefina. I found myself transported to extraordinary middle places: Argentina and the United States, the ghostly limbos between life and death, youth and adulthood. Sobremesa reads like a cross between magical realism and the food section of the New York Times. Delicioso!”—Beth Ostrosky-Stern, Pittsburgh Native and New York Times Bestselling Author

“At once a magical matrilineage, recipe book, and love letter to Argentinian culture, Josephine’s Sombremesais not only a moving culinary memoir, but a timely cultural portrait and call to return to a slower, more sensual relationship with our loved ones and ourselves.”—Allie Rowbottom, author of Jell-O Girls

“Josephine didn’t just find a love for Argentina, reconnecting with her family’s past and heirloom recipes. She’s uncovered a sisterhood in sobremesa, and wants to extend it to those who still don’t know about it or who don’t yet know they just might need it most. Because it’s there, in the intimacy of our own kitchens that we join forces, connecting in the place that, for so many people and families, is a meeting point, a place where culture lives on and transforms itself.”—Sofía Pescarmona, Entrepreneur and Viticulturist, CEO and Owner, Lagarde Winery and Fogón Restaurant in Mendoza Argentina