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What's in a Family Name?
By Karina Romero de Avila


In Mexico we have sort of a collection of names that tells our family history. It is the custom to have names signifying both the father's and the mother's side of the family. This means that most Mexicans have at least three names.

Before I was married, my complete name was Karina Romero Vazquez. My nombre (first name) is Karina. After my first name comes my apellido paterno (father's last name), Romero. After that comes my apellido materno (mother's last name), Vazquez.
In English, you would call Vasquez my maiden name. In Spanish, we call this the apellido de soltera.

Here is my name before I was married:

Karina

Romero

Vasquez

nombre

apellido paterno

apellido materno

(first name)

(father's last name)

(mother's last name)



What is your name, using the Spanish custom?

_______________

_______________

_______________

nombre

apellido paterno

apellido materno

(first name)

(father's last name)

(mother's last name)


When a woman gets married, she drops her mother's last name and replaces it with her apellido de casada (the apellido paterno of her new husband). Therefore, my name changed from Karina Romero Vazquez to Karina Romero de Avila. In English, you would call "Avila" my married name. In Spanish, we call this the apellido de casada.

I married Ricardo Avila and became:

Karina

Romero

de Avila

nombre

apellido paterno

apellido de casada

(first name)

(father's last name)

(to) (husband's father's last name)


Note:
The "de" indicates that I'm now married to Señor Avila. If a woman's full name does not have "de" between the apellidos (last names) then that woman is not married.

Now, when my husband got married he didn't change his name at all. The idea is that the father's name is always kept within the next generación (generation).

Do you think this is confusing? Let's see if you can figure out the full names of our two children. I will give you their first names, Daniel and Zamara.

Possible answers:
1) Daniel Avila Romero
2) Daniel Romero Avila
3) Daniel Romero de Avila
4) Zamara Romero de Avila
5) Zamara Romero Avila
6) Zamara Avila Romero

If you guessed Daniel Avila Romero and Zamara Avila Romero, you answered correctly! Now try to imagine what would happen if Daniel got married to someone by the name of Maria Sanchez Juarez. What would Daniel's name be? How would you write Zamara's name if she got married to someone by the name of Juan Hernandez Lopez?

You guessed it! Daniel's name would not change at all, but Zamara's name now would be Zamara Avila de Hernandez.

We always use our full names in formal situations. Once people are familiar, we sometimes use only two names. When this is done, we drop their apellido materno and use only their nombre y apellido paterno (first name and father's last name). Married woman would use their nombre y apellido de casada (first name and married name).

Just like there are very common names in the U.S. and Canada, some popular names in Mexico for las niñas (girls) are Maria and Lupita. For los niños (boys) Juan and Jose/Pepe. Common apellidos (last names) are Martinez and Hernandez.

In Mexico, it is common for families to be very large because of all the different generations living under one roof. Even after I got married, I live in the same house as my mamá (mother) and papá (father). In this photo you can see the three generations represented in the Romero family.


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