Javier Ávila visits NPHS to provide a unique perspective


Riley Roach

Ávila showing off his book and some of his grandmother’s products.

TOWAMENCIN – North Penn High School hasn’t had a school-wide assembly since before the COVID-19 pandemic. On Thursday, Javier Ávila came to give his speech, “The Trouble With my Name,” as the first speech for the school since the shutdown.

Javier Ávila is a poet, novelist, public speaker, and English professor at Northampton Community College. He has received many awards in his lifetime for his poetry and teaching. In his assembly, he showed students how he thinks we should treat each other and used personal anecdotes to elaborate on the message. 

“We are all allies. I don’t believe in telling the story and portraying myself as a victim. I want you to see me as your equal and I want to see you as my equal. Which means an attack on you is an attack on me. An attack on anyone here is an attack on everyone here. That’s how we move forward, seeing each other as the same and knowing we have to fight for each and every one of us,” Ávila said.

To support his idea of equality and how people should come together, Ávila used a comedic anecdote about speaking another language in Pennsylvania. 

“There might be someone who has a sign that says, ‘This is our country! Speak English only!’ and they will misspell the word ‘our.’ Something that I learned is that a good racist can hate much better than he can spell,” Ávila added.

Ávila’s usage of comedy in his speech is very engaging for the whole audience. In between two of his comedies, Ávila talked about the subject of being in the minority in America.

“When you are a minority, I realized that one of the burdens is that you constantly have to prove to the majority that you are not the stereotype that they have of you. That can be exhausting. Sometimes you want to take off the mask and be invisible in any possible way, but you can’t. There are always signs that give it away that you are Latino or Latina. The first sign is your name. If you are a married woman from Puerto Rico and moved from the island to the mainland, the trouble with your name begins,” Ávila expressed.

Ávila’s one-man show flyer; The Perfect Latino.
(Riley Roach)

Ávila mentioned troubles with his name in his speech a lot, hence the title of the speech. He used the symbol of names to help display to the audience some struggles of American Latinos and to embrace diversity. He does this best when reading his poem The Trouble with My Name. 


Excerpt from The Trouble with My Name:


“All my life I had been mispronouncing my name,

which I thought was Javier Ávila,

until I moved to Pennsylvania to learn linguistics

outside the classroom.


First came the tennis club experience:

“Hi, may I help you?” the nice lady asked.

“Yes, I have a court reserved for 2:00 pm, “I replied.

“Under what name?


“Do you mean Aveela?”


“Yes. That’s what I meant.”

And I thought, how nice of her to teach me

the proper pronunciation of my name.

It baffled me, though, because my publisher has

called me “Ávala” for seven years.


My student, who wrote “Availa” on his first paper,

seemed surprised

when I suggested that he look at the syllabus 

to read the proper spelling of my name,

and when he handed in his second paper

and said, “I got the name right this time.”

and I saw that he had written “Availa” again,

I told him that we never stop learning,

and he grinned as though he had never

heard sarcasm before.”


Ávila reading his poem to the audience embraced different names and showed what some Latinos go through. This was just one of many poems that he read from his book, The Trouble with My Name, on Thursday. If you want to read more you can purchase his book of poems on Amazon.

Ávila’s published book of poems embracing Latino culture.
(Riley Roach)