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What’s In a Name in Mexico?

Kids at Xel-Ha Park in Quintana Roo
Credit: Robert Nelson
Maria and Fernando Garibay Bloggers at Expats In Mexico
Maria and Fernando Garibay

What’s in a name in Mexico? When you meet someone for the first time, one of the first questions you ask is “what is your name?”

Why is it so important for us to know the names of other people? Is it really necessary to know the person’s name in order to know the person? How would you address another person without knowing his/her name?

Well, a name in Mexico is very important to us. This is why when we introduce one person to another, we start by saying their names. In Spanish you would say: “John, te presento a María, María te presento a John.” They would reply “mucho gusto” to each other while they shake hands.

As you may have noticed in Mexico, people’s names, most of the time, are longer than expat names. There are many reasons for this. For example, Mexican parents normally name their firstborn son after the father and the firstborn daughter after the mother. If the mother is called María del Rosario, most probably her mother’s name is or was María del Rosario, like her daughter. If the father is called José Manuel, his father’s name is or was likely to be José Manuel, like his son.

One difference between Mexican names and expat names is that expats use Jr. to signify the difference between the father and the firstborn son, when they use the same name. Mexicans add another name to make this difference. And how do Mexicans choose the second name for their children? Well, they are inspired by the names of their grandparents, who probably received their names from the names of Saints from the calendar on the day they were born, such as Eulalia, Benigno, Mariana or Eladio.

Also, Mexican parents often use national festivities to name their children. For example, Revolucion or Patria. They could even go “crazier” by naming their son AnivdelaRev, which is the abbreviation of Anniversary of the Revolution. If you are lucky enough, your parents could like three names for you and name you Lilia Maria Trinidad.

For instance, in my family, our mother’s name is Maria Cristina and our father’s name is Fernando. My sister is the oldest of three children and her name is Maria Cristina. I am their second child, their firstborn son, and my name is Fernando Francisco. Last but not least is my brother, Sergio Antonio. As you can see our names follow the cultural pattern. Now you add the father’s last name and the mother’s last name to have your full name. So, my full name is Fernando Francisco De Pedro Castillo. And my wife´s full name is María Catalina Garibay Coronado.

In Mexico, we have our father’s first last name as our first last name and our mother’s first last name as our second last name. The importance of having a son is huge in our Mexican culture because the son will carry the family name for future generations, considering only the father’s last name as the family name.

We take very seriously our children’s name because they will have it all their lives. In Mexico it is very rare to change your name because it is not a simple process. Actually, not everybody can do it, you have to be in a very specific range of name to do it.

So we pick the name we liked the most and we ask the people to call us by that name and sometimes we are called by our nickname or a short name from our names. In my case it would be Fer and my wife´s short name would be María.


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