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The Village with Three Surnames

By Mr Grumpy - Fri 9th Dec 2011

Any expat who has lived in Spain for more than a few months has more often than not already got their head around the whole 'two surnames' thing. In short, that the first surname comes from the father, the second from the mother, that the second surname is often dropped in informal circumstances, and that a woman's name doesn't change at all when married.

This system works perfectly fine in almost all circumstances and locations, however, in a small rural village such as where I live this can cause confusion.

At my daughter's school there is one particular surname that it seems obligatory for all Spaniards to have. And I'm sure that they can't ALL be related (or at least as far as they know).

To all but the seasoned resident, it seems that there are just 3 surnames used in my village : Reus, Pons and Mengual.

The next village up the valley seemingly has three different surnames. If anyone gives their surname in the Town, some miles away, then most people can make a reasonably accurate guess as to where they live.

It would cause utter havoc if Srs Reus, Mengual or Pons decided to relocate to the next village. There would probably be a revolution or something.

Equally so, any Spaniard having the temerity to live in the village and not have one of the three 'approved' surnames would not be viewed as a local, or 'one of us', and as such be treated as a bit of an outsider and with suspicion. Even if they, their parents and their grandparents were born in the Village.

But the fact that there are these three surnames, and the fact that Spanish customs dictate that both two surnames are used can result in chaos.

The Reus-Mengual, Mengual-Pons, Pons-Reus situation is bad enough, but when it starts to become Reus-Reus and Pons-Pons etc.. it start's getting weird. Off course this brings suggestions of in-breeding etc... which is ridiculous. At least in recent generations.

And then, with the practice of christian names having to be chosen from a state approved list up until the 1980's, there is a generation of people with a limited range of christian names.

The further complication of calling your first son after the Paternal Grandfather, and the second son after the maternal grandfather can result in whole generations of people with the same name as well !

For example, at the recent local elections, ALL of the candidates from one of the Party's were made up exclusively of the Reus / Pons / Mengual combo, with combo's of just four different surnames. This necessitated the need for the second christian name to be used as well.

(And surely, I don't need to mention that this party was voted into office on the back of the overwhelming support from the rest of the Reus / Mengual / Pons clans )

Even in conversation in the local bar it can cause problems :

" Have you seen Pepe recently ?"

" Which Pepe ?"

" Pepe Mengual"

" Which Pepe Mengual ? : Mengual-Reus, Mengual-Pons or Mengual-Mengual ?"

" Pepe Mengual-Mengual"

" ok, Which Pepe Mengual-Mengual ?"

" Pepe Angel Mengual-Mengual ..."

- All this in a village of just 800 ! seriously, you would have thought that their parents could have come up with a bit of creativity !

Comment on this Blog

Same situation in my village, but different surnames. They get round it by using apodos, or nicknames. So it's a case of "Have you seen the Duck today? Yes, he was with the Paintbrush in the Lame One's bar."
Alcalaina - Tue, 20th Dec 2011

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