Throughout my life in the U.S. of A., my name has been LeRoy Amate. In Mexico, my name is LeRoy Jose Amate Perez. Here, your father’s surname does not suffice on legal documents, you must include your mother’s maiden name.
The reason is pretty simple and practical. There are so many Hispanics with the popular Garcia, Perez, or Martinez etc. surnames that we need our mother’s maiden name to legally separate our identities. Mexicans, more commonly than yanks, also use their middle names to distinguish the multitude of Juans, Robertos and Jaimes from all the others. You will often hear men referred to as Jose Manuel or Juan Antonio as if it were a single name. Women who share the most common name of Maria are always referred to by two given names: Maria Elena, Ana Maria, etc. etc.. Nick names are also used with more frequency in Mexico. Further assist in identifying who we are discussing among our peers: “Hey I saw Luis Manuel today”“Which one?” “El pelon (baldy)” “Oh him”.
Married women, especially in the more macho past, use their given names followed by their maiden name, the word De (possession of) followed by their married name. My wife, for example, would be formally addressed as: Maria Xochitl (Mayan/flower) Espinoza De Amate. Belonging to Amate – I like that. In Oakland we would say: “She be my woman”. However, I’ve never heard my wife utter the possessive De. She must be a liberated woman. I can testify tu dat ya all!
I like the fact that mother’s maiden names are as important as the paternal surname. For me, I feel doubly proud of both my ancestries – Amate and Perez. It is confusing, however, for Anglos who immigrate to live and work in Mexico. On any legal document or identification, both paternal and maternal names must be used When filling out Mexican immigration forms, even the maiden names of your grandmothers are requested. Most U.S. citizens do not know their grandmothers’ maiden names. As a consultant to foreigners investing in Mexico, I assist by making up those names. I hope Mexican immigration is not reading this.
I know my grandmother’s maiden names: Otto and Rueda. Unlike most young people in the states, I grew up with my grandparents who only spoke Spanish and thus enabled me to be bi lingual from jump street. My parents immigrated from Spain with my grandparents to Hawaii to cut sugar cane. Passage was paid by sugar producers. From Hawaii they migrated to the San Francisco Bay Area; harvesting crops throughout the San Juaquin and Sacramento valleys.
My parents blessed me with frequent trips to Mexico where they felt at ease with the language and culture. I moved to Mexico in 1984 and almost immediately felt more at home here than in my beloved hometown (chocolate city) Oakland. Language, culture, religion, and family values surround me with the roots of my childhood. Do you know your grandmothers’ maiden names?
What are your roots dear readers? Please share them with us here at mexicomatters – We love immigration and family name stories.
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