This is a short post aimed at helping my English-speaking readers on how to correctly parse and distinguish Hispanic names. Given the facts of an increasingly globalized culture where many naming schemes are employed, it is convenient to avoid any embarrassment due to misunderstanding in the naming schemes used.
1. For starters, I assume that the English name is structured in the following way:
First Middle Second, where the bold ones are mandatory and the middle name is optional. Thus, a name such as John Fitzgerald Kennedy could be rendered in these ways:
John Fitzgerald Kenneddy
John F. Kenneddy.
2. Now, Hispanic names are completely different. Let’s assume we have a complete Hispanic name below, as in a passport or application requiring the full name of the person:
Pedro Javier Martínez Ramos
So, the proper way to render it in two words would be Pedro Ramos, right? Wrong!. The proper scheme for a Hispanic name is:
Name_1 | Name_2 … Name_N Last1 Last2
That’s it. Thus:
3. Hispanics have one or more first names, and they can use any of them; for public usage, they pick the one it suits them best. In our example, the Hispanic fellow has two first names: Pedro and Javier. He could use Pedro, or Javier, depending on his liking or other practical reasons.
4. Hispanics do not have middle names. Funny, isn’t it? For most of us, middle names are like temperatures in Farenheit and fluid ounces: weird things Americans insist on using ;-).
5. There should be at least one last name, and at the best, two. In the case of our example, there are two last names: Martínez and Ramos.The first one (Martínez) is the paternal last name, the name of the family. It is inherited by the father, and it is written in first among last names.
6. The second last name (Ramos) is the mother’s maiden last name. It does not inherit, and when it is written, is written last.
So, in our example, we could say that Mr. Martínez married Miss Ramos, and the child they had was given the first names of Pedro and Javier. The offspring of Mr. Pedro Javier Martínez Ramos would carry the last name Martínez, along with the maiden name of Mr. Martinez Ramos’s wife.
7. Therefore, Mr. Pedro Javier Martínez Ramos could use these names:
Pedro Javier Martínez
Pedro J. Martínez
P. Javier Martínez
Pedro Martínez R.
Pedro Javier Martínez Ramos
… well, you get the idea.
8. Women’s married names are a special case. Let’s assume that a lady that goes by the name:
Laura Concepción Espinosa Rodríguez
… gets married to Pedro Martínez. In that case, the laddy appends “de [husband ‘s last name]” (English: “of [husband ‘s last name]”), in this way:
Laura Concepción Espinosa Rodríguez de Martínez
… and her last name would be, not Espinosa nor Rodríguez, but Martínez, and she could be called as:
Mrs. (Señora/Sra.) de Martínez
Laura de Martínez
Laura Espinosa de Martínez
… etc. However, this usage tends to disappear slowly because laws no longer require it, and women are reluctant to change their names just to indicate that they are someone’s possesion (as indicated by the “de” particle).
9. Then, let’s say that Laura and Pedro have a kid named Juan Carlos. The complete name for him would be:
Juan Carlos Martínez Espinosa
10. The presence of two last names might be seen as cumbersome; but it is important. Having two last names shows that both of your parents recognized you as a child. This would be business as usual in a normal marriage, but when pregnancies out of wedlock are rampant (as is the case with Paraguay, my country), the father usually is absent to the point that he does not recognize the child. Such children have only one last name: their mother’s.
Well, I hope that this could be of help at the time of sorting out those weird looking Hispanic names 🙂