In The Comedy of Errors, Antipholus of Syracuse goes on an epic quest in search of his twin brother – and his own identity. José Menjivar shares the story of his own search for identity, in connection with his last name.
“The Story of Menjivar” by José Menjivar
Ladies and gentlemen, with your permission, I am going to tell you a story which hopefully will tie in identity, confusion, and maybe even some level of overall foolishness. And mysticism! Don’t forget that. I love mysticism.
Let me begin. My name is Jose Menjivar. It is a strange name. The arrangement of it has always seemed to me more tropical than rural. It is a name I’ve always enjoyed because as kids we would all tease each other and one brilliant young friend of mine called me, “Jose Made-a-fart.” Once again, brilliant.
Anyways, you get it. It’s a silly name.
So I got older and never really dug around – until one day, deep in the shadows of the California desert many years ago. I was enlisted in the Marines and one someone came up to me and told me they “knew a guy.” Moments later, he is standing in front of me. His name is Menjivar, too! Awesome. He told me a story. Would you like to hear it?
He told me about four brothers that traveled from Spain across the oceans, over the waves, into the tropical bosom of Sout America. These brothers supposedly populated this area and I kept that story with me for a while. I had no way for researching it, but I kept the story with me. As Antipholus of Syracuse says:
“Until I know this sure uncertainty, I’ll entertain the offered fallacy.”
Then, months later, I am in Iraq. A chubby little man with a moustache named Randy Kaggle came up to me and asked me about my last name. He tells me that his was Salvadorean and she is a Menjivar. I told him I had no ties to the name. I never knew my father. He tells me there’s a governor there and wealthy socialites, and most importantly, he tells me the same story about the brothers! Maybe not word for word, but the same epic journey and the name is Menjivar.
So, a few years after that, I return home, live my life, and decide to do my own research. My gray started to come in so I needed answers fast! I found them! I found the town of “Mengibar” in Spain, and there’s a sword of Menjivar. All of a sudden, I’ve already decided I’m going to steal this sword of Menjivar. But that’s a story for another event. I also found a website for people with the name Menjivar and I dug into the journals of the men who made the passage with Cortez. I find variations on the name.
I began telling everyone else the story. It was such an incredible experience that had traveled the expanse of the entire globe only to find me. One day, I decided to head out to meet with my mom. I had the story memorized in my head and it was worth telling her every detail because I wanted her to see how far this story had come. I told her everything. At the end of the story my mother gave a quiet sigh. Do you know what my mother said to me?
She said, “That’s not even your real name.”
Clearly this was the onset of some form of dementia. Perhaps the diabetes and arthritis were finally affecting her thought process. But it wasn’t. My mother then told me the story of how I was named after my first step-father. It was a shock to the system. My biological father’s name was Saucedo. A name that meant nothing to me. I thought I had a reunion but really-
“I to the world am like a drop of water
That in the ocean seeks another drop,
Who, falling there to find his fellow forth,
Unseen, inquisitive, confounds himself.”
– Antipholus of Syracuse