Jani Rosado


What's in a Name?

It is the sound of our identity

The auditory virtual self

That is spoken into the universe

And when written on the page

It means “ME”

And I was given

Iraida -mi Papi me llamo, with tears in his eyes and love blooming in his heart

Playa playa though he was, I was the sparkle in his winking eye.

And like many ghetto youngins,

He created my name from the name of his wife

Aida and Iris

Iraida - mami me llamo, longing and aching for a little girl who would receive all the pure and, she


untainted love that she had to give

Off to school I went into a world of English speaking teachers,

With little or no patience for ethnicity

It was enough that they had to learn all our names, but to say them correctly?

File under: Not Important

And so the name that Papi proudly crowned me with became


I raid her

I ate her

I hate her


I ride her

It sounded like paper tearing

It was ugly, it was ordinary

It was me.

As I grew

Iraida curled into a ball and sat in my chest happily raising her head when she was called

But otherwise, Jani answered all the questions

Can you say that right?

“Jani?”, they’d ask

“Yeah, like Jani be good,”which meant

“Since I have to remind myself, please do not mess with me”

“That’s not your real name though, your real name is,” they’d insist.


“Well, how do you say that in English?!”

“You don’t"

How do I explain?

My name, filled with joyful rainbows and 85 degree sun showers, became a mis-shapen abstract loop

of auditory nonsense

Frustration bubbled up as I’d ask you not to call me Eye-ray-duh and you’d insist that it’s my proper

name and that you would refer to me as such.

That is not my name!

You will not rename me!

I will not shout Toby!

It is MY name

Historically it meant our pride, it spoke of our family, it sang of our culture

By the time I was 9 I wanted a new identity.

I wanted to be Melinda or Linda. Or Barbie.

There were no toothbrushes, key chains, bicycle plates, or t-shirts with my name

That Lady on Romper Room never ever ever EVER said Happy Birthday to me.

Determined to change it at 18 legally,

But needing a quick fix Nina and then Jani became my alter-egos

There’s even a girl in Puerto Rico during a creative summer who wrote pen-pal letters to a “Brenda”.

At 18, I would be reborn! The possibilities were endless

And then Papi died, at 40 years old he died, succumbing to poison from another time, another place

(There’s an entirely different poem about militaries and agent orange right here)

Cancer crept up on us just when I thought I would get to know him and by the time it was time

To change my name, I couldn’t because it was all he had ever given me

But one day, someone said it right…

in my mind

in my heart

in just sounded right

And with it I fell in love

In my name the coqui chants

And the flamboyan leans

Depositing petals onto the veranda

Sprinkling the ground around Tia’s rocking chair

Where it smells of flowers and a cafesito.

If you say it right,

Turquoise oceans, sparkling in the sun like liquid antique glass bathe your tongue

It is mine. Very few have it. It is special

And though people see fair skin and eyes

There is no doubt that Iraida Janina Perez de Rosado es Boricua

And if you say it right

It’s a balm to my spirit.

A gift to my soul.

Iraidita – Papi me llamó y Mami me cantó

Y es mi nombre


Jani Rose (Rosado) is a Puerto Rican poet, performer and activist from the Bronx. She is an Acentos Fellow, founding member of Sangre Viva Art Alliance and a member of the leadership of the Acentos Writers' Workshops located at Hostos Community College. She is the mother of 4 amazing boys, loves chocolate covered almonds, roses and dragonflies.