Cucamoca – Qué, qué what?!

Volcán de Fuego, Guatemala c 1958, photo courtesy Kennedy M Crockett

Welcome to our website and to our first blog post!  We are thrilled you have joined us.  With so many topics that I’d like to write about bouncing around in my brain, I thought it might be fitting to start by setting some context.  Namely, to know a little more about the meaning of the name of this website, Cucamoca.  Qué, qué what is Cucamoca, you ask?!

Well, it all began in Guatemala in the late 1950s.  Oh, you might be thinking, the name has its origin in the Mayan languages still spoken in Guatemala today.  Unfortunately, it’s not quite so exotic, but was instead a nickname given to me by my father.  More on this later, first a little history…

It was not the first nickname given to me by my father, and it was not to be the last.  I guess being the youngest of five children truly did make me the love child (i.e. spoiled rotten).  I was blessed with adoring parents, and as a result, my father bestowed a number of nicknames on me over the years, some good, and as I became a rebellious teenager, some not-so-good.

The first nickname I was given came from the circumstances under which I was born.  In my father’s memoir, Between Banana Boats and Revolutions, he writes:

 “There are many reasons to remember Guatemala, but the most important of all was the birth of our fifth child, a little girl, at the end of November in 1958. Almost immediately a series of earth tremors began that was to continue for days.

“The tremors gradually increased in intensity until there came a full-fledged earthquake on the day we brought Mary and the new baby home from the hospital. It was strong enough to evacuate us from the house, and we spent several hours out in the center of the lawn, baby basket and all, until we felt the danger of another quake had passed. No sooner had everything been hauled back inside and upstairs than along came an even stronger tremor, opening a crack along our staircase with a bang loud enough to be mistaken for a cannon shot. Rumbling and shaking persisted, even after Mary, the baby and all of the related paraphernalia had again been carted downstairs and out into the middle of the front yard.

“Mary was never one to take an adamant stand if she could avoid it … unless, that is, her children were involved.

“Having had to evacuate the house twice was every bit enough for her. She announced that she would stay out in the yard until the earthquakes were over … and that she did. We set up a tent, got out the bedrolls and built a campfire. The cook prepared meals in her kitchen and we ate them on our folding table out in the yard. It was kind of a lark for us, and the baby didn’t mind at all. In fact, it seemed to me that she tended to smile each time there was a rumble from down deep in the earth, followed by a good shaking of her basket.

“The little girl was given the name of Teresa Alice, but her nickname from the beginning was Terremoto. In many ways, as she grew over the years, she lived up to it. She was a mover and a shaker.”

Gene and I have always believed in the power of a name, and we deliberately gave our children their first names based on the name’s meaning.  We each had a certain feeling about our children as they were about to arrive into this world, and we yearned for a name for them that would convey their unique identity, and would serve to propel them on to fulfill their unique purpose in this life.  The nickname Terremoto had this effect on me and my life.  It was cute when I was little, always demanding what I wanted, and making a scene when I did not get it.  However, as I pushed through my career, I’m sure a boss or two of mine wished I had not shaken things up at work quite so much.  Gene would also be only too happy to share with you how I have shaken up his life over the years.  Hopefully he has enjoyed the rollercoaster ride!

The happy nicknames my father bestowed on me as a child made me feel loved.  Gratefully, the not-so-good nicknames my father bestowed on me as a rebellious teenager never stuck.  This was in large part due to my dogged determination as a young adult to prove their negative prophesy wrong, to prove to my father that I was a productive and accomplished individual, and that I would most certainly exceed his expectations.  I was fortunate as a young professional to learn the power of establishing a personal vision, of establishing personal goals, and of revisiting these goals every five years to set new goals that I worked hard to attain.  The not-so-good nicknames from my rebellious years, while hurtful, served to fuel me onwards, to prove to my father that I was not the person he threatened I might become.  In fact, nearly 10 years after my father had passed away I was still trying to prove myself to him, and it finally dawned on me that I could stop.  At that point in my life, already in my early fifties, I realized I needed to reassess my heart’s desires and set a new course to ensure I would spend my time on what is most meaningful and rewarding to me.  But I digress, fodder for more blog posts.

So what is the meaning of Cucamoca?  Well, it turns out that as I sat in my playpen as a one-and-a-half-year-old in Guatemala, just learning how to speak as we all do at that point in our lives, I observed and tried to communicate what I saw in the world around me.  I have been told that my favorite pastime was to share a cookie with our family dog, Sarge.  As the story goes, I would take a bite of cookie, and give him a bite of cookie (not much has changed since then).  I would also describe things I saw in my environment.  The first thing I tried to describe was a “cucaracha”, or cockroach, as we commonly call them.  The long name in Spanish was a little challenging for me at the time, so I settled on the shortened version of the name, “cuca”.  I would point and say “cuca”.  Then there were the ubiquitous houseflies, or “moscas” as they were and are called in Guatemala and in all of Latin America for that matter.  This too was a bit challenging for me to say, so I settled on “moca”.  I would point and say “moca”.  This is how my father came to call me Cucamoca, an endearing nickname that accurately reflected my perception of the world in which I lived at the time.

It was not to end there.  I was affectionately called Cucamoca throughout my childhood.  When my father retired from his 28-year career as a diplomat in the US Foreign Service, we embarked on a three-month long RV expedition across the American Southwest looking for the ideal place to live.  He dubbed our 27 foot Winnebago motorhome as “Cuca”.  Years later he would own other Cucas (RVs); a “Cuca I”, followed by a “Cuca II”.  In fact, when Gene and I embarked on our own RV cross-country expedition in late 2015 to celebrate our newfound freedom from our 30+ year corporate IT careers, we also dubbed our motorhome as “Cuca”.  It just came naturally.

How has the nickname Cucamoca shaped me as an individual, and what impact has it had on my life?  In its greatest manifestation, it has served as a constant reminder, in fact as the fingerprint upon my soul, of the incredibly amazing life of adventure my father gave his five children and me in particular, growing up unconventionally in Central America.  I look forward to writing more about the experiences he crafted and made possible for us all.  In its least manifestation, Cucamoca has made for a really unique domain name which thankfully was still available when I started to plan for this blog.  I’m glad I was able to snag it and finally get this website up and running!

Here’s to more storytelling, and thanks for coming along!

Lake Amatitlan in Guatemala at 10,000 ft c 1958, photo courtesy Kennedy M Crockett