Description of Naming System

Through our studies of kinship and how typical Mexican families function, we find it important to explain how apellidos (last names) are passed down through  generations.  This system is not complicated, however it is far different from the system used by most families in the United States.

Here in México a child is typically given one or two first names.  These names function very much like the first and middle names used in the naming system that is typically used in the U.S.  For example, in the above kinship chart there is Ivan Miguel Rosado Rivas, who has two first names, and his son Ivan Rosado Mendez, who only has one first name.  Those individuals who have two first names sometimes use one or the other, or sometimes both, as the name that they go by.  For instance, Ivan Miguel Rosado Rivas may be called Ivan, Miguel, or Ivan Miguel, by his family and friends.

In addition to the first name(s), a person is given two apellidos (last names).  In the cases above the apellidos are Rosado Rivas and Rosdao Mendez, respectively.  The first of the two apellidos is the father´s first apellido, and the second of the two apellidos is the mother´s first apellido.  Therefore, Ivan Rosado Mendez inherited the apellido Rosado from his father, Ivan Miguel Rosado Rivas, and the apellido Mendez  from his mother Rosa Eugenia Mendez Vales.

This naming system allows the father´s apellido to exist for at lest two generations, if it is passed through a daughter, or indefinitely if passed through successive sons.

One other important aspect of the Mexican naming system is the way in which apellidos are exchanged through marriage.   Usually the wife will drop her second apellido and replace it with her husband´s first apellido.  Also, sometimes they will insert a “de” in front of the husband´s first apellido before it replaces the wife´s second apellido.  Let´s consider the ego of our kinship chart, Hilda Rivas Aguilar.  After marriage to her husband Ivan Rosado Nuñez, she can be known as Hilda Rivas Rosado or Hilda Rivas de Rosado.

Link to Merida '99 Anthropology home page
Click here for a kinship chart
Click here for pictures of the Rivas de Rosado family