Before you ever come to Latin America, ask yourself this question:
What are some typical Latino names?
If you have never been to Latin America and don’t know too many Latinos…
Like let’s say you grew up in a small town in Iowa….
I’d bet that your imagination is a bit weak here.
I can see the names already:
- Maria 2
Indeed it is!
All Latinos are named “Maria, Jose, Joe or Maria 2” don’t you know?
Now, if you are a little more sophisticated, then maybe it expands to other names also…
Now we are getting somewhere….
But what about names like….
So on and so on….
As you can see, most of those names are female names because I’ve been through a lot of chicks down here.
So that’s what comes to mind!
To the average American with no experience with Latinos, I’d imagine that these names are a bit strange to see a Latino using.
Simply because they don’t sound like typical Latino names to folks with absolutely no experience with Latinos.
Names like “Karla” or “Brenda” sound like very typical names to non-Latino folks in the US.
Having said that, they are perfectly normal names down here.
But here’s some thoughts I’ve had on the manner for those curious about this relatively minor topic.
Some Are Very Common
First off, plenty of those names are pretty common down here in Latin America.
Names like Brenda or Karla are actually not rare at all.
It’s simply that those names work for Latinos in Latin America also.
They have no difficulty pronouncing them in the Spanish language.
And, for whatever reason, they simply got picked up down here also at whatever point in time.
Now some of you might be thinking…
“Maybe Latin America is becoming more Americanized and that is why names like those are common down here?”
Good observation but no.
We’ll get to that later.
I’ve seen older folks down here in their 50s or older with names like those.
So it’s not a matter of “American influence rising in the last decade” to explain why names like Brenda or Deborah are common down here.
And also on some of those names listed above…
Like Tami for example.
Actually, the Spanish name for that is Tamara if I remember right.
The chick that I met with named Tami that you can read about here had her real name as Tamara.
But she went by as Tami.
Perhaps because she liked it that way…
Or maybe, to a degree, there is a little bit of Americanization of names down here?
Americanization of Names
Now, to be honest, I don’t think that the name “Tami” is an example necessarily of the Americanization of names in Latin America.
It could be!
But I think that’s more of an example of someone who just wanted a name that flows better.
Like how, on my birth certificate, my name is Matthew but I go by Matt.
Having said that, you do have names down here that might seem strange to some of the locals…
For example, take Cindy.
Cindy was a Colombian chick I met years ago in Buenos Aires.
And I was living at a homestay in Buenos Aires with a single lady.
One night, I told that lady, Monica, that I was going out.
She asked me details about my plans that night out of curiosity…
And I mentioned this chick I was going to meet up with named Cindy.
She asked what country is Cindy from and found it strange when I said Colombia.
“That’s a weird name for a Colombian.” She said.
She could’ve substituted Colombian for Latina though.
Because, to be fair, I never met another Cindy down here ever since then.
I’m sure they exist but haven’t seen it.
In the case of Cindy…
What could’ve happened was perhaps her parents named her that way because it’s a foreign sounding name.
You get the occasional rare Latino in Latin America who had that happen to them.
Where both parents are not foreigners in anyway!
But yet they name their kids some foreign sounding name that most of the locals don’t use.
There was another case like that where I went out with this Venezuelan-Colombian chick in Barranquilla years ago…
I forgot what her name was exactly but she had to give her ID to the door lady whenever she came by to enter my bedroom….
And the door lady found her name very strange and the chick explained that “it is German.”
Even though her parents were not German and had no connection to Germany.
For some reason, they simply gave her a German name.
And it’s not always the parents who do this…
Years ago, I met another Venezuelan chick named Rosa that I left with often.
She was a very cute chick.
But her last name was not Latino sounding whatsoever.
I forgot what it was exactly but it began with an R?
And so over the month or so that we were hanging out…
I asked her about her last name.
“Got any foreign parents?”
She said no.
“How did you get that last name then?”
And she told me that she changed it herself!
“Was it because you married a foreign dude?”
She said no.
She simply changed it because, in her words, it “sounded better.”
Even though, as she told me, she didn’t legally change her last name.
She simply presents herself with the last name to local folks.
And her reasoning of “it sounds better” is, from my observation, the reason why some of the locals do this.
Where the parents give them a foreign sounding last name like Bryan or Karen in Mexico…
To, in an extreme case, changing her last name for no reason except because “it sounds nicer.”
In Latin America, you notice that folks with foreign sounding last names tend to do better socioeconomically…
Not always but it’s usually because of that heritage and how the ancestors did well economically.
Wealthier immigrants and all that in some cases.
And you also notice how some of the locals tend to be very insecure about “appearance.”
Appearance in terms of coming across as educated.
And to be lighter skin, having a foreign sounding name, having travelled or speaking English…
Well, to those who care, that can be a sign to some folks of “being more educated.”
Even though it doesn’t mean you are literally more educated…
It just seems to me, as a foreigner, very superficial and I believe part of the reason for the foreign naming is because of that.
Though, to be fair, it’s not always the case!
Here’s a funny video anyway of a Mexican guy complaining about the foreign naming by parents as you can see here.
But let’s move on.
To be fair, sometimes the local has a foreign sounding name because it is more common in their part of Latin America!
Simply because of heritage.
And no bullshit naming.
In some parts of Latin America, like Argentina or Chile, you simply have more European heritage in the locals in general.
You got areas like “Puerto Williams” for example.
“Williams” doesn’t sound very Latino, does it?
And you can see that influence on names in the locals also.
It’s not just those countries either where you have more European influence on the heritage and names of the locals.
Most of Latin America has that but it varies heavily.
You know – some country like Peru with previous President Fujimori.
Not so much European in this case but Asian.
Still foreign sounding in that it doesn’t sound like a “typically Latino sounding name.”
Which, to be fair, is a dumb thing to say – “typically Latino” as Latin America is a very diverse region with people having moved from all over.
Europe, Africa, Middle East, Asia, etc.
Still, you’ll find these names everywhere.
And also the influence can be from folks who are modern day immigrants.
The Foreign Parents
Finally, let’s not make it sound like anyone with the foreign sounding name only has it because of some ancestors from Scotland from 500 years ago…
You have folks immigrating to Latin America everyday!
Whatever part of the world.
Finding a local to be in love with.
And having a family with.
When I was in Pachuca, I met a Mexican guy who was very white looking – blonde hair, blue eyes, etc.
In that part of Mexico, I rarely ever see a local with blonde hair and blue eyes.
But with blonde hair and blue eyes?
Not that white.
Usually, in this part of Mexico, if you see someone with blonde hair, it’s a chick who dyed it blonde.
Anyway, I thought he was a foreigner but he told me that actually his dad is German.
Mom is Mexican.
And, funny enough, would tell me how he gets treated like a gringo all the time with locals trying to gringo price him or speak to him in English…
At least until they learn he is actually Latino.
Then they assume Argentine or something until he clarifies he is Mexican also.
Anyway, like I said, this happens plenty of times…
The local with a foreign parent.
Which can then explain the foreign sounding name.
Anyway, let’s wrap this up.
I always imagined that if I were to have kids in Latin America…
I’d probably go for a more neutral name.
A name that can work in both Latin America and the US.
Not something overly gringo like Tyson or some shit.
But not something too Latino sounding like Alejandro.
Something that is more “neutral.”
Maybe Karla or Paul?
Granted, Paul might sound too gringo sounding but I’ve met locals in Mexico with the name Paul…
So I’m not sure.
Anyway, got any comments yourself?
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Thanks for reading.