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Mexican Spanish Names

Mexican Spanish Names

Mexican kids by Rodo Padilla

Mexican kids by Rodo Padilla

Learning the language is only the first step–to really enjoy Mexico you have to understand the culture.  One of the first steps is to learn the names.

July 22, 2007

I was once heading home to New York from a stint as a park ranger in Costa Rica, when I landed in Guadalajara with $30 to my name.  Something told me to stay.  Fourteen years later I’m still here, and now have $37.

I first shared a large apartment with a retired Gringo named Ken.  He almost immediately left for the states (not due to me, I trust), and Jose moved in.  That weekend Jose asked if he could have a birthday party for Pedro, and I said of course.

Ten people came to the party and never left.  They were still there when I moved out six months later.  So started my crash course in Mexico.  I learned Mexican cooking, music, dance, and psychology from Jose and his friends male, female, and undecided.  They were artists, painting all day and partying all night, a Bohemian rhapsody.  One had a radio show.  Another was a sex therapist.  A lithe young man dressed up like Gloria Trevi and sang “Me dejaste, como una papa sin catsup” (“You left me like a French fry without ketchup”) until in a dancing frenzy his wig fell off.  All had wild affairs.

I was hopelessly lost.  I spoke next to no Spanish.  It was a stretch to count to five and ask “How much does it cost?”  My conversations were limited, to say the least, but I was getting a Master’s degree in young Mexico.

One day Pedro asked me “Where’s Pepe?”  Now, of all the people who called my apartment home, I was sure none was name Pepe.

“I don’t know Pepe.”

That got me a weird look.  “You live with Pepe.”

Ah.  As Richard is Dick and William is Bill, Jose is Pepe.  More to remember.

Later, as a school teacher with hundreds of students, the nicknames went into high gear.  Francisco is Paco.  Maria Fernanda is Mafer.  Guillermo is Memo, thankfully.  If your name is Jesus, you are Chui (Chewy!).  But if in an attempt to secure your spot in heaven your folks saddled you with Jesus Maria, then you are Chema.  Mercedes is Meche.  Magdalena is Magda.

New at one school, I was told to go get my paycheck from Jesusa, a porcine woman who went by the name of Chuyita—“Little Female Chuy”.  Somewhere on the stairs to her office my brain managed to mangle her name.  Entering the inner sanctum where checks were issued, I greeted the rotund, snout-nosed woman with a big “Hola, Chuleta!”—“Hi, Porkchop!”

It sounds like there are twice as many people in Mexico as there really are, with all the nicknames.

Then there is the fact that many, many Mexicans use their middle names, like in Petticoat Junction with Bobby Jo, Billy Jo, and Betty Jo.  Or they are called by one name by friends and another by family.  Our wonderful friend Armando is actually Luis Armando, and his parents call him Luis.

Closer to home, Omar is Omar Israel.  He is Omar to friends but Isra to family.  His mother is Maria Elena and goes by Nena.  His father, who is un poquito machito, was named Hilario Guadalupe, to his continual horror.  Both are more commonly girl’s names.  Not surprisingly, he goes by Layo.

Not to be confused with Lalo, which is Eduardo.  Or Lola, which is, well, the Kinks.

Dan and Omar

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A sample text widget

Etiam pulvinar consectetur dolor sed malesuada. Ut convallis euismod dolor nec pretium. Nunc ut tristique massa.

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