Canales bill would allow accents on state documents

Despite Hispanics making up a large part of the Texas population, the state does not acknowledge an important part of the Spanish language.

Despite Hispanics making up a large part of the Texas population, the state does not acknowledge an important part of the Spanish language.

Accent marks, tildes or any diacritical marks, be it Spanish or any other language, do not appear on Texas drivers licenses, vital records or any other personal identification material. Many states do not have any diacritical marks on licenses or personal documents.

State Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, filed a bill in the state legislature in February, “relating to properly recorded diacritical marks in vital statistics records, driver’s licenses, commercial driver’s licenses and personal identification certificates.” The bill has not gone through committee yet, but Canales believes everyone should be on board with it.

“It’s absolutely critical that we use the accents or diacritical marks because that’s your name,” Canales said. “You are your name. That’s your identity.”

Part of the problem, Canales said, is that the United States and Texas do not have an official language.

“Nationwide, people of Spanish descent have their names pronounced incorrectly because of the prohibition of these characters on state documents,” Canales said. “Since Texas was Spanish-speaking before English-speaking, this is something that’s concerning. The roots of the state are of Spanish descent.”

Nearly 40 percent of the Texas population is Hispanic, according to the 2010 U.S. Census. That number is expected to grow.

One criticism of the bill is the transfer of documents from the state’s current online systems to a new system, as well as having a state law that could possibly cause hiccups when transferring personal information to federal databases.

Most states do not allow for any type of diacritical marks. The three other U.S. states along the Mexican border do not allow accent marks on licenses or any personal identification materials.

North Carolina and Oregon allow for accent marks, tildes and all diacritical marks. Kansas has banned all symbols but allows for accent marks. Illinois has no restrictions on what a parent can name their child — numbers are even allowed. Montana has no rules, but its data-keeping system doesn’t allow for special symbols. A parent can handwrite in any diacritical marks for vital records and send back to officials for record.

The Rio Grande Valley delegation of state representatives almost all have some sort of diacritical mark in their names, yet those marks don’t appear in any personal identification materials.

“My sister’s name is Gabriella Shame, an accent mark over the ‘e,’” Canales said. “Since the accent isn’t there, what is it? Shame. Can you imagine? There are so many examples like that.”