The Names in Spain

¡Hola de nuevo! 

Hello again!

Hope you’re all enjoying the 3 day weekend. As my mom cleverly put it, “Tell Diego thank you for my extra day off!” (Columbus did arrive to “America” thanks to Spain after all) 😉

The Spaniards may have brought some of the first Europeans to America, but the reach of Spanish influence on US culture doesn’t extend much further than that. If you’ve been keeping up on your TRIS reading, you’ve probably noticed that culture and tradition here varies greatly from that at home. For example, even something as common place as inheriting a parent’s last name in Spain differs from the traditional practice in the United States.

Want to know more?

Allow The Ray to explain 😉

 How last names work in Spain

The way Diego’s name appears on his birth certificate and on all official documents is: Diego Santos Fernandez.

No, Santos isn’t his middle name.

And no, he doesn’t have one of those hyphenated last names a la Olivia Newton-John.

Unlike the way we do it at home, everyone here has two last names. Stranger still, the only people in your family who share your exact last names are your siblings. Crazy right? Let me give you an example….

Imagine a three person Spanish family. Their names are as follows:

Father = Jose Moreno Garcia

Mother = Maria Fernandez Parada

Son = Jorge Moreno Fernandez

Do you see the pattern? When two people in Spain have a baby, the child inherits first the last name of the father and then the last name of the mother. If our dog Sandy were in fact the legitimate child of Diego and I, her official name would be: Sandy Santos Miller (See how that works? – she would take the first last name from both of the parents starting with the father’s)

Yes everyone in this family has a unique last name. Sorry mailman!

Also going against typical US fashion, women here don’t change their names when they marry. If you are born Eva Franco Madrid – you’ll always have that name whether or not you decide to marry. I wonder what 7th grade Spanish girls day dream in school about if it’s not how their name would sound with the last name of their current crush??? When I was young I always thought “Rachel Taylor Thomas” had a nice ring to it 🙂

Gotta love a classic JTT photo

Your Saint’s Day

Something else unique to Spain (well, and I suppose in any other country where the majority of the people are Catholic) is the fact that they celebrate a birthday and also a Saint’s day. On the Roman Catholic calendar, every day of the year has a name  (or a list of names) of Saints that are honored on that particular day. For example, today is October 9 and Saint Denis is one of the Saints honored on this day. Therefore, in Spain if your name was Denis you would celebrate October 9th as the day of your Saint. Usually on you Saint’s day your family gives you a small gift or a card – nothing too fancy.

I was told by one of my English students that traditionally in Spain a person’s parents named him/her based the Saint celebrated on his/her birthday. So keeping in line with the previous example, if two people – say 100 years ago – had a baby on October 9th, they would name the baby Denis if it were a boy.

Now a days Spanish people are less “hard core” Catholic and typically don’t name their baby after the Saint of his/her birthday. The tradition is still alive, however, of having a mini celebration in honor of the Saint you were named after. I just looked up my name in Spanish (Raquel) and see that my Saint’s day is on January 15 – I’ll be eagerly awaiting by our mailbox for your card on that day! 😉

Remember, January 15th! 😉


2 thoughts on “The Names in Spain

  1. Thank you for this article. As a postie, I’ve always been confused about the amount of different names on Spanish apartment mailboxes – thinking that there must be multiple families living in the apartment. I now know that it’s probably their siblings.
    This TRIS blog would make a great teaching tool for a Spanish club in the US!
    p.s. I can see the resemblance in your birthday picture….

    • I thought of you when I wrote about everyone in the family have different last names – craziness! hehe make sure you make the check out to Rachel JANE Miller on my “Saints Day” before you send it 😉

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