Written Wednesday August 31, 2011
I published this before, but for some reason it didn’t go though. Anyway, here it is again!
I majored in Spanish Language and Literature in college, so I’ve been pretty invested in the Spanish-speaking world long before I came to the Dominican Republic to live and work. I remember learning about certain cultural aspects in my Spanish classes, one of which being apellidos or last names in Spanish. It was so confusing, and I’ll admit, I’ve only truly come to understand how it all works in the last two years or so. I’ll explain:
- Let’s say we have a guy, whose name is José Francisco Ramírez Sosa. He has two last names: Ramírez, which was given from his father’s family and Sosa, from his mother’s family.
- José falls in love with María Susana Bolívar González. Likewise, Bolívar is María’s father’s family name and Gonzalez is María’s mother’s family name.
- José and María get married, so while José’s name remains José Francisco Ramírez Sosa, María’s name changes to María Susana Bolívar González de Ramírez. In official documents, María will continue to write her name as María Susana Bolívar.
- José and María’s son will be named Javier. His full name will be Javier Luis Ramírez Bolívar.
If you’re confused, don’t worry. Just give it about five years or so to soak in.
As confusing as this may seem to us, the funny thing is the other day my host family and I somehow got on the topic of how we do last names in the States, and it was so confusing to them! I explained to them if a guy Richard Damien Brown marries Jane Marie Johnson, (usually) Richard keeps his last name, and Jane becomes Jane Brown, while their kids will be named Leroy Brown and Melissa Brown. But was so confusing to them.
My name is Arabic and my last name is hyphenated, so everywhere I go (in the US or abroad), people struggle with my name and what to do with it. I’m not sure if this added to the confusion for them or not, but I doubt it helped.