Last Names in Spain

Okay, Erik Christian Gilbert Dominique Thauvin asked via IM, so I'll explain it (again) here. My wife is not using her "maiden name" because there's no such thing here in Spain. The Spanish - and in most Latin American countries - have a different system all together for surnames.

The Anglo system is like this, in case you forgot or don't know: When two people get married, it's traditional for the woman to change her last name to the man's last name. When they have children, the children inherit the father's last name only. Thus Bob Smith marries Catherine Johnson, Catherine will normally change her last name, so she is now Catherine Smith, and they have a baby named John and his name is John Smith. It's also common for Anglos to have a "middle" name which isn't used by anyone except your mother (I'm Russell Alexander, for example, when my Mom was pissed off), but this is besides the point right now.

That's the traditional way, but in a modern world, there's obviously a lot more options, and the laws are completely flexible about this in the U.S. The woman can keep her maiden name (her original name), combine it with a hyphen like Hilary Rodham-Clinton, the man can take her name, they can choose something different all together. Most of the time the kids will all have one name, though what that name is, no one knows.

That's how it is back home. Here in Spain and almost all Latin American countries, they have a completely different system. Huh? You say, yep, they don't do last names like us at all. And because they're a bit closed minded here, they have no flexibility in how this system works. It just the way it is.

The Spanish have at least two last names, the first and second, though the first surname is the most important. The first surname comes from your dad's first surname and your second surname comes from your Mom's first surname. Thus if Maria Gonzalez Blanco marries Jose Martinez Goya and they have a child named Jose (of course) his name will be Jose Martinez Gonzalez. The woman does not change her name (though she is called "senora" instead of just "senorita") and their children inherit both names.

This continues ad-infinitum with your grandparents names, etc. My wife's name to her fourth last name is Ana Maria Asensio Baquero Su�� Gonzalez. There are people who know a dozen names or more.

I wanted Ana to change her name at first (because I'm that way), but it ended up being a serious pain in the ass here. They just don't do it. It doesn't make me very happy, but I've gotten used to it (sort of). Alex has two names here but in his American passport just has his first last name (mine) because I was worried about people calling him Asensio because it was last on his Social Security card or Passport. Here in Spain, however, all his paperwork contains all his last names. He can choose later on if he wants, but for now he's just a Beattie (in the U.S.) Pablo Picasso's name is actually Pablo Ruiz Picasso. He decided to use just his Mom's last name.

So that's why it's and not ;-)


Later... related to this, Grzegorz has a similar post about FIRST names in Poland, which is quite interesting. I don't know if Spain has those rules... I'll have to check.

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