For more than two years now, I´ve been Liliana. When I come home on May 30, I will go back to being Jillian.
On May 1, the Foundation for Self-Sufficiency in Central America will officially become EcoViva.
I will, of course, still be the same person. I only chose to be go by Liliana after remembering a semester abroad in Chile in which I often didn´t recognize my own name when pronounced “Hee-yee-an.” I didn´t much feel like a Julia, the name I´d been assigned in eighth-grade Spanish class, so I settled on Liliana thinking that it replicated the vowel sounds of my given name enough that I would be likely to recognize when people were talking to me. It´s proven to be confusing a few times (especially in bi-lingual situations), but overall has worked remarkably well, and I´ve grown fond of the name. The little girls in my host family often call me Lili, an affectionate nickname that I will miss hearing upon getting home from work in the afternoons.
The FSSCA, on the other hand, was sometimes simply called “la F” by folks here at the Mangrove Association. But more often than not, both the name and the acronym were met with puzzled looks, or were simply changed around like a child´s alphabet blocks.
I´ll be returning to my roots in one way and starting out on a new path at the same time. I´ve spent the vast majority of my life living in the U.S., and during these last few years I´ve often been reminded that I am, for better or worse, a product of my culture. But like most people, I am also adaptable – I have become Salvadoran Liliana in more ways than just name. I have learned how to spend a Sunday sitting around visiting with family, how to practice a different kind of generosity (sharing something you have rather than buying something new), and how to trust in a process, sure that progress will come “poco a poco” (little by little”).
Similarly, the FSSCA´s character has adapted and changed, especially in the last year. Rather than just playing the role of a financial booster club, EcoViva is now poised to act a strategic partner, supporting the work of the Mangrove Association with technical assistance in additional to financial aid. Perhaps more importantly, EcoViva is ready to learn from Mangrove Association and the local communities it represents, both in terms of technical expertise and international development philosophy.
My challenge as I return to the U.S. will be to incorporate the parts of Salvadoran Liliana that I value most into my life as American Jillian. I plan to keep using Liliana as my Spanish-language alias, and I hope that I will be able to successfully fuse my two identities into one well-rounded person.
In doing so, I will be honored to continue working with EcoViva, an organization that now has a name to match its vision.