When you have a name like María de la Soledad Teresa O’Brien, you have a lot of explaining to do. My mother is black and also Latina, more specifically Cuban. She is a devout Catholic who credits the Virgin Mary with any success she’s had in this country. But it was my father, a man who spoke no Spanish, who chose the name María de la Soledad to honor the Blessed Virgin Mary of Solitude (“solitude” in Spanish is soledad).
My name is altogether too long for Americans, who’ve always struggled with it. It’s even too long for a driver’s license. African-Americans assume I’m named after the notorious Soledad prison or Mount Soledad in California. Latinos want to know if I’m lonely. That doesn’t fit because I grew up with five siblings and I have four kids of my own, so I’m not lonely at all, though I do often seek solitude, the actual meaning of my name.
My father was Irish and Scottish, but from Australia, and my parents added Teresa when I was confirmed. My parents named all their children after people they loved and admired, and when it got to me, it was the Virgin Mary’s turn. When I married, I thought about taking my husband’s name (Raymond), but I realized that, odd as it is, the name I have works. I have a mass of kinky hair, light brown skin and lots of freckles. I’m black and Cuban, Australian and Irish, and like most people in America, I’m someone whose roots come from somewhere else. I’m a mixed race, first-generation American.
Read more about how O’Brien plans to explore Latino heritage through the CNN documentary, “Latino in America” on October 21 and 22 at 9pm ET: “Soledad O’Brien explores Latino experience, mixed-race heritage”
Also check out, “Latino in America,” the book tie-in to one of the most heavily anticipated CNN documentaries ever, Latino in America, from top CNN anchor and special correspondent Soledad O’Brien. Seriously though “Soledad O’Brien” sounds like a pretty cool name to me!