“Have you picked a name yet?” This is the first question that rolls off the tongue, for many people, upon learning a friend or acquaintance is pregnant. People want to know the name the couple has picked and usually, they also ask why. How do we really chose our babies names? I believe there are many reasons why: couples look at trendy names and pick one that resonates; they consider family and close friends’ names and sometimes choose a name to honor a loved one; mostly, couples take into account their culture, their language, and their family roots. I believe for Latinos living in the United States, culture takes center stage, and we tend to choose names that are bilingual and/or easy to pronounce in both Spanish and English.
According to the website BabyCenter en Español, as of January 2014, the most popular baby names for Latino girls included: Sofia, Isabella, Valentina, Camila, Valeria, Emma and Victoria, among others. For boys, the top list included Santiago, Mateo, Matías, Sebastian, and Diego. For English names, Sofia was at the top of the list with Emma, Olivia, and Ava. Jackson was the favorite boy name along with Aiden, Liam, and Lucas. Some are easy to pronounce in both languages, others not so.
Betty Galván, founder of the lifestyle blog, My Friend Betty Says, and the mother of three children, says that when picking names, it was important for her and her husband to pick names that their Mexican parents could pronounce. Culture was also a factor. “We lived overseas for a while. We wanted our children to feel connected to their Mexican roots.”
Cristina and her husband Mike, who are also of Mexican descent, chose names to reflect their Latino culture. “My husband’s mother is Mexican-American, but both my husband’s appearance and his last name are Anglo-Saxon, so it’s not so easy to identify the family as ‘Latino.’ There was no doubt that our three sons were going to have Spanish names.” All three kids use Cristina’s last name, which is 100% Latino, as their middle names. Their children have light skin and hair, so both parents expect that their names will help them identify with their Hispanic culture.
Another acquaintance, Analisa, also chose Spanish names for her two daughters. “My husband is of Eastern European origin, and his name is European. For me it was very important that the girls had classic Spanish names, and that they be identified as Latino — and more than anything, that they identify with and be inspired with their rich Hispanic culture.”
Some parents prefer to use family names and honor the memory of loved ones—perhaps the name of a grandfather or beloved aunt. In my case, my son’s middle name is the first name of his paternal grandfather, Gus. His first name is of Greek origin, like his dad. My daughter’s middle name is Maria in honor of her maternal grandmother.
“I think all parents have an equally hard time choosing names regardless of the origin or language it falls under,” said Galván. “For some individuals, it’s important to name babies after other family members. “As a couple, that is tough, especially if neither one has met that special family member they are honoring. Perhaps it would be easier to choose original names, new names, or names that have not been heard for a few generations.”