Mexican Last Names – Preserving their Heritage by Honoring both Mother and Father

Most people are used to having two (first and last) or three (first, middle, last) names. In Mexico, it’s very common to have four names. Why? Becuase they are honoring both sides of their family by taking on their names.  Here’s how it works…
Juan (first name) Gerardo (middle name or second first name) Lopez (father’s last name) Moreno (Mother’s last name)
While the person above generally goes by Juan Lopez, he could also go by Juan Moreno, but on formal documents, he is Juan Gerardo Lopez Moreno.
Sometimes men and woman who have common first names (Jose, Maria, etc) will use their first two names as their name, so Jose might go by Jose Rivas and Maria might go by Maria Susanna.  This helps them be more personalized in what sometimes can be a lot of Juans and Marias.
Here’s where it can get confusing. Juan Gerardo Lopez Moreno listed above may sometimes be called Juan, Gerardo, or Juan Gerardo by his family and friends.  If a woman gets married, she will usually drop her second last name (from her mother) and take on her husbands first last name (from her father-in-law), so if Maria Susanna Rosado Martinez married Juan Gerardo Lopez Moreno, she would become Maria Susanna Rosado Lopez.  Got it? When those two have a child, he might be Jose Miguel Lopez Martinez.
Ultimately the naming system allows the father’s last name (apellido) to exist for at least two generations of daughters and potentially indefinitely if passed on by sons.

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