On May 5th, 2022, Cinco de Mayo, Senator Art Haywood visited Esperanza Academy to hold a press conference regarding a resolution for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to provide the accurate spelling of names that include diacritical marks such as accents, tildes, umlauts, etc. Senator Haywood included Reverend Luis Cortés, the founder and CEO of Esperanza, Anu Thomas, the Executive Director of Esperanza Immigration Legal Services, and Julia Ramos and Emmely Mendoza, seniors at Esperanza Academy.
Reverend Cortés poignantly weighed in on the topic noting that the Department of Transportation is the state agency that delivers the primary means of identification for most citizens and thus is creating issues for many who rely on the correct spelling of their name in order to have proper identification for legal purposes, passports, etc. He notes that the department is essentially renaming people by providing identification that is different from one’s birth certificate. He says, “Our state driver license or state ID is our primary way to move around in our country and to move…in our airlines. So this is very important, and I hope that PennDOT and the legislature will see its importance, and we can get this repaired.”
Since the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) is updating their software, they claim it could take up to 2027 to accommodate this request. Senator Haywood is pushing for a much sooner due date of July 1st, 2024, and Reverend Cortés also encourages for the Department of Transportation to develop a sense of urgency as they have fallen behind several other states who already are providing this necessary service.
Both Julia Ramos and Emmely Mendoza, contributed to the press release adding further dimension to the discussion of diacritical marks by sharing their own views and experiences. Mendoza said, “Although it may be small, accent marks hold history and tell stories that our relatives have worked so hard to shape and share. Accent marks within the name are a form of identity, and it shows a long line of hard workers that have held their name with pride. Taking out accent marks…disconnects us from our family and the ancestors that we are so proud of.”
Esperanza Academy is grateful to have been able to host Senator Haywood and honored to be the place where this resolution is shared with the public. We hope that PennDOT will understand the importance of this necessary resolution and take action to value each individual’s identity.