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Hugo, Yolanda, Leticia and William

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Leticia and Yolanda having fun


How Hugo Got His Name

Hugo's real name was Hugh Fleming. If a Latin person tries to pronounce “Hugh” from its spelling, the name comes out “Ugh!” I always called him “Hugh” until one weekend in Paris when we happened to be together, more or less on business. It was also during the Vietnamese War, and the French were universally upset about the U.S. involvement in Vietnam, an old French colony which the French had held on to for many years until the Viet Cong communists made it so unpleasant that they withdrew. After that, the French could not accept the American stupidity of going back into Vietnam. Every time Hugh and I met a French person, they would berate us as to why the U.S. was still in Vietnam. This really got old, particularly since we weren’t much in favor of the war either.

President Kennedy had first gotten the U.S. involved in Vietnam; but it was his successor, President Johnson, who had sent in the huge detachment of U.S. troops thus detonating a full fledged war. At the time that Hugh and I were in Paris, President Johnson had already lost popularity due to the war and had not even sought re-election. Richard Nixon was the new President. To me and many others, it was so obvious that we should get the hell out of Vietnam, I assumed it was equally obvious to Nixon and that he would somehow honorably extricate our troops (which, it turned out, he never did!).

So, in this climate, Hugh and I got really tired of the French jumping all over us demanding that we justify a war that we ourselves didn’t believe in. Like clockwork, everytime we met a new French person and they found out we were Americans the person would berate us up and down. To avoid this, Hugh and I decided to pose as citizens of other countries. I was to be “Serge” from Russia, and Hugh was to become “Hugo,” a journalist from Puerto Rico. Most of the French we met didn’t know much about Puerto Rico, so we were completely free of any Vietnam stigma.

We visited a night club and our new identities worked out real well; nobody bothered us. On the other hand, we did notice that we were pretty well ignored by the night club girls and waiters. (They assumed that since we were not Americans we probably had no money and weren’t worth cultivating.) Either way we couldn’t win!

But one thing did change. After that weekend Hugh has since been “Hugo.” The name really stuck, particularly with his Latin girl friends who now had a name they could pronounce. On the other hand, the name Serge did not fit me too well. No one other than Hugo ever referred to me as “Serge”—and he only did so at times when he felt particularly jovial.


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