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Why Hispanics have WAY too many names – a cultural lesson in Hispanic Surnames

I write this post just because it’s a public forum and no-one, not even most of my family really gets it.  So why not take this opportunity to give a little cultural education?

Here goes:    10387700_1487148438218686_9139523968034547407_n

In English, we have this concept of a “last” name.  In Spanish, that concept does not exist.  The concept of a surname is more accurate- a family name that expresses your heritage, your family.  Traditionally, in U.S. (and, I’m sure, other western cultures, as well) culture, a woman, once married, takes on the surname (or “last” name) of her husband and their kids take on his last name as well.

In Hispanic culture, this is not true (thank you, oh thank you, Mr. Ott, for teaching me culturally literate lessons in Spanish class, not just how to conjugate a verb – my in-laws were truly impressed when they learned that I could sing ‘Estas son las Mananitas’ like a real Mexican – and also learning this whole surname thing was also awesomely helpful in my real life).  In Hispanic culture, everyone gets two surnames – the paternal, then the maternal.

So, in Charlie’s case, his name is Carlos Garcia Martinez (actually, he has a hidden first name he chooses not to reveal in public because he hates it- Carlos is his middle name, but I won’t embarrass him and give you his actual first name here.)  Garcia is his surname from his father, Martinez is his surname from his mother.

Now, if you think about it, this is really cool. Because you can understand familial relations through their surnames.  For example: Francisco Garcia Martinez- same paternal & maternal surnames, it’s his brother!  And one of my other favorite people in the world – Arturo Guevara Martinez – only the maternal surname is the same – so this means that they are related through their mothers – they are maternal cousins.  Isn’t that cool?  You can get a glimpse into their relationship just by seeing their last names!  I think it’s awesome!!

So let’s look at my family because we are this crazy bi-racial, bi-cultural mix.

My name is Angela Joy Scheribel.  Yes, even today.  Yes, this is my “maiden” name.  No, I did not change my last name when I got married.  In Mexico (which is where Charlie and I lived when we got married), women do not change their last name. They could take on “de” (‘of’) husband’s (paternal) last name.  Like I could be Angela Joy Scheribel de Garcia.  But since ‘de’ literally expresses possession I chose to not go this route!!  When we were married, Charlie, who had never spent a day in his life in the U.S., would never have understood the concept of me taking on his last name.   To him, that would have meant that I was his sister.  Gross!

My kids?  Poor babies!  They have this horrific combination of my last name (which is incredibly unique in itself – every single Scheribel in the United States is a direct relative of mine – uncle, aunt, grandpa, brother, sister, or cousin- there are less than 40 of us in total) and an extremely common Spanish last name – Garcia.

Oh! Which leads me to one fact I forgot to mention earlier – the children in a union, only carry on the maternal last name for one generation.  My kids have my last name, but their kids will not.  (My kids are Garcias and my son’s kids will be Garcias – much like in the U.S. – but Scheribel will not carry on to their children).

So let’s pretend my son’s name is Billy Bob.  POP QUIZ time! Don’t get nervous, but let’s see if you’ve taken this all in. . .

What would his full name be (including both surnames)?  (And no- it is not hyphenated – he just has 2 surnames).  Think, you’ve got this.  (Remember: My last name is Scheribel.  Charlie’s is Garcia.)  GO!  (Side note- my poor kids have to practice for years before they can remember their actual “full name.”  My 4 year old has got it down at this point, but my 3 year old, not so much.)  Ok, Have your answer?  What is it?

If you answered Billy Bob Garcia Scheribel then you are right!!!  Good job!!!  If you didn’t, either you’re a bad student or I’m a bad teacher, I won’t beat myself up over it, so don’t you do the same.  Haha.

If you know us from this biz or from my son’s sports teams, you probably think I’ve lied to you.  I take on ‘Garcia’ in my kids’ realms and in the Garcia Handyman Services realm – because my kids usually shorten to Garcia and telling everyone my last name is something different is just too confusing – for everyone.  And in the business realm, I want you to understand that Charlie and I are the Garcias, this is our business, it’s family owned & operated.  If I showed up as Angie Scheribel on all my emails – you’d think I was just the receptionist.

Anyways – that’s it!!  Thanks for playing along in this cultural lesson!  And so you can put faces to the name, I included, above, a picture of our beautiful kids, the Garcia Scheribels!!