About Surnames

The matter of surnames can vary depending on the cultural rules of the place where you are from. According to the country where you were born, you could have, for instance, only your dad’s name as in Japan, your mom’s placed before your father’s if you are from Brazil, or your family name set before your given name if you are Chinese.

In Spain, we have two surnames, generally the first one is from the father and the second from the mother. For several years now, a family has been able to choose the order of the surnames when they have a child. I think this is good news for mothers, as their middle surname will continue to exist. We also keep our same surnames when we get married, regardless of gender. The most common last name in Spain is García.

My first surname is Hernández. The suffix -ez used in surnames means “son of,” so somebody called Hernán or Hernando gave his son this surname for the first time several years ago. I don’t know exactly where it comes from, but my grandad’s grandfather lived in Requena and he already used the name Hernández at that time. It’s pretty common in both Spain and Latin America.

Gascón is my second surname, which came from my mother’s family. It looks like it comes from a southeast region of France, but my grandfather came from a Castilla la Mancha region known as La Manchuela. I don’t think it is a very popular surname in Spain, so I am glad to be a Gascón because it is uncommon, at least in my area.

Although surnames are very important in official documents, in little towns and villages, nicknames are very commonly used. They can sometimes be more useful than surnames when you want to tell somebody which family you are from. Many times, explaining to older people which family I come from, I’ve told them, I am Nicolás “el Perdío’s” grandson, as my grandad had this nickname and he was a well-known person and great musician from Requena.

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