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Are Indigenous Last Names Looked Down Upon in Latin America?

Published October 27, 2021 in Personal Stories & Opinions - 0 Comments

There’s a certain thing you notice in Latin America.

It’s not uncommon for Latinos to sometimes talk greatly of their “mixed” heritage and also of the important “indigenous contribution” to their country’s history.

While a few might even bitch about the historical impact of Spain like you see Mexican President AMLO doing here.

However, you notice very quickly that a lot of Latinos have this weird contradiction in Latin America where they might give appreciation for the historical importance of indigenous people but give a rat’s ass about current day indigenous people.

Like how AMLO, despite wanting the King of Spain to apologize for what Spain did to indigenous people, also does things like promote this Maya train here that fucks over some indigenous communities.

Or other things he does or ignores that harms indigenous communities as I’ve written about before.

Suffice to say, there’s a gap where plenty of Latinos give lip service to the indigenous people of centuries ago but don’t care for the ones that exist now.

But that disregard can sometimes even spiral into downright nastiness or racism against indigenous people.

Where said indigenous person might have his job application thrown into the trash after the employer sees that he has a last name like “Huexotl” or “Xilotl.”

And give preference instead for the folks with last names like “Lopez” or “Garcia.”

Or maybe even a last name that isn’t Spanish sounding but maybe Germanic or British!

As an example?

Rosa the British Lady?

Back when I lived in a Colombian city called Barranquilla, I met a Venezuelan girl named Rosa.

She was planning on moving to Spain someday to pursue graduate studies.

We met at some bar called 4B and hooked up several times since we first met.

Unfortunately, I found out that she was secretly taken and cheating on her partner so we never took things further beyond sex as I wrote about here.

But I remember one night, as I wrote here, in which I asked her about her last name.

Her last name was something not even Spanish sounding.

It began with an R but I don’t remember what it was exactly.

But it sounded very British.

And so I asked her – “how did you get that last name?”

Just out of curiosity – does she have a British dad or something?


She told me that she simply changed it somehow – officially or unofficially (I’m not sure) – because “it sounded better.”

Though I don’t remember her real last name perfectly, it didn’t sound very “Spanish sounding.”

She was a medium dark skin woman that probably had some indigenous heritage.

She came from the city of Maracaibo from what I remember which, if I remember right, has plenty of indigenous heritage in its residents.

At any rate, she felt that her real last name wasn’t good enough and opted to change her name (officially or unofficially) to something not even Spanish sounding.

Is that common?

Changing of Names Away from Indigenous Roots

As I wrote here, you do have Latinos who more commonly give their kids some foreign sounding first name.

Like Bryan, Kevin, Karen, etc.

At least in Mexico that happens!

And I’ve seen it sometimes happen in other Latin countries also.

However, what Rosa did by changing her last name without even marrying a dude isn’t common at all in my experience.

I couldn’t tell you how many Latinos do that but she’s the only one – on top of my head – that I can recall going that far.

Still, I’m sure there are other Latinos who change their last names from less sounding indigenous ones.

For example, there’s this source here that claims the following about some Colombian dude who changed his last name after moving to Spain:

“This comes from a colombian friend I met here in Madrid. He emigrated here a couple years ago and he always said his last name was "de Mendoza" but one day he told me it was actually Yatari (or something similar) de Mendoza but that he was used to only say the castillian one because he got bullied at school for having an indigenous sounding last name. One of his reasons to become a spaniard was so that he could change the order of his last names.”

So, as far as we can tell, the perceived benefits of changing your last name to something less indigenous sounding seems to be a thing in at least Venezuela and Colombia.

Anywhere else?

Well, as a reader known as Dazza put it once, the benefits could be seen in Peru also perhaps as you can see his comment here:

“…being rich in Latin America means having a great life as long as you don’t mind your house being covered in barbed wire and CCTV and your kids ferried to school by bodyguards – trade offs have to be realised and accepted. Being white is the same deal – and another thing as well which goes a long way is the ‘gringo’ surname – if your surname is Smith, Jones, Muller, Suzki then your CV is not going into the round paper basket as if your name is Quispe – well, in Peru for sure!

People are very proud of their family names if they are non-Spanish European or Chinese/Japanese and it can take you a long way – they had a list on the ‘net somewhere with the top richest 17 families and the surnames on there – none of them are Inca surnames but surnames like Lindley, Hoschild, Fishman, Mulder, Verme with the richest family being the Brescia family – which is an Italian surname – so there is a lot of social credit with skin, hair and eye colour but also family names – especially German, English, French etc.

I suppose in Argentina where there was a lot more immigration from Europe in the late 19th to the mid 20th century – it isn’t a big deal to have a German or British surname.”

Of course, that’s a good point in the end – I’m sure the importance of having a European sounding last name varies by country in Latin America.

As I always say, not all of Latin America is the same and it varies by where you are.

Final Thoughts

It’s a relatively small detail about life in Latin America for us gringos.

That being the preference among some locals for a “more European sounding last name” over a “indigenous sounding one.”

As I said before, I find the contrast to be funny in how some Latinos look at indigenous people of the past versus the indigenous people and their influences today.

When thinking about this topic, I’ve also considered how I might have a kid in Mexico in the next 9 months.

Though, when thinking about all of the evidence, I have serious doubts it’s mine so far.

But if it turns out to me mine after the DNA test, then it’s definitely something I have considered doing.

That being to give the kid my last name so that can somehow maybe benefit the kid going into the future.

The mom has a more Spanish sounding last name but I guess a British sounding one might give him a slight leg up?

Assuming it’s mine of course – YET TO BE SEEN!

At any rate, when it comes to this topic, it’s something I’ve thought about.

Maybe now I understand Rosa and her decision to change her name to something less indigenous sounding?

Anyway, as I said, it’s a minor detail to life down here for us gringos.

But it’s symbolic of how Latinos seem to see indigenous people.

Though, to be fair, it does need to be said that is changing.

Over the last two decades, you have seen some increasing influence of indigenous people in some pockets of Latin America.

Like how Evo Morales won office in Bolivia in the 2000s and that significance of that.

Morales? Does that sound indigenous? Hmmmm…..

But indigenous he is!

Though, as you can see here, when Evo was kicked out of office, the new temporary leader in charge, Jeanine Áñez, had some of her prior tweets circulate online such as this one:

“Sueño con una Bolivia libre de ritos satánico indígenas, la ciudad no es para los indios que se vayan al altiplano o al Chaco”

Still, despite any current antagonism against indigenous people and their last names in this day and age, it’s still a relevant point that they have gained more mainstream influence in some Latin countries (most of them not really from what I can tell).

Anyway, that’s all I got to say.

Leave any comments below in the comment section.

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Thanks for reading.

Best regards,


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