Spain shoots down its 'sexist' double-barrelled names

Spain's politically correct government, which legalised gay marriage and simplified divorce proceedings, is now taking aim at a subtle form of machismo: male predominance in Spain's double-headed surnames.

Traditionally in Spain, babies are given two surnames at birth: the first is the father's and the second, the mother's. This causes endless confusion in English-speaking, single-surname countries, but it explains why the names of Spanish leaders and celebrities – from Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero to tennis legend Arantxa Sanchez Vicario – take so long to pronounce. It also comes in handy when identifying people born to fathers with common surnames such as Garcia and Perez, the Spanish equivalents of Jones or Smith.

In the Spanish naming game, the first position is most important, and until recently, that honour has been bestowed automatically on the father. But the socialist government of Mr Rodriguez Zapatero (Rodriguez comes from the Prime Minister's father, Zapatero from his mother) is drafting a new law under which a baby's two surnames will be ordered alphabetically unless the parents specify otherwise. The law also eliminates years of bureaucracy needed to change the surname order after the child is born.

"This measure is a logical consequence of the principle of equality between men and women," said the Justice Minister, Francisco Caamaño, whose second last name is Dominguez.

And for some people, name order is more than a feminist symbol. Consuelo Abril, president of COMPI, an umbrella group of women's equality organizations, said: "For the children of women who were killed or beaten by their spouses, it is a true drama to carry the last name of that abuser."

Some legal experts say the new rule could cause surnames at the end of the alphabet to become extinct, but Mr Caamaño believes most couples will likely come to an agreement before the library-like system is imposed. "The alphabetical ordering will be usedonly in case of parental disagreement," he said. Although parent have billing on the national ID card, most Spaniards are known simply by their first surname, such as director Pedro Almodovar, whose full name is Pedro Almodovar Caballero. His mother's contribution to his birth certificate never makes the film credits.

In fact, the name that appears in second place is usually relegated to the status of the mother's maiden name in Britain – convenient for bank identification but little else – unless it is more interesting than the father's. The full name of actor Javier Bardem, is Javier Encinas Bardem. According to Spanish custom, he should be known as Javier Encinas. But by using his mother's name, Bardem, he declares his membership in the Bardem acting dynasty.

While making progress on the equality front, the alphabet legislation fails to solve the dilemma of single mothers, who must still figure out how to fill in the blank on the civil register form reserved for the father's last name. They are usually forced to invent one. The names of singers such as Ricky Martin or Julio Iglesias are especially common, according to El País newspaper. It is not clear how gay partners should proceed.

Under the late dictator General Francisco Franco, first names were obligatorily chosen from an approved list of saints.Now the new the legislation will even spare couples from declaring whether their baby was born out of wedlock, a requirement since 1957. "The law is more in synch with our times," a Justice Ministry spokeswoman said.

Javier Encinas Bardem

The actor is more commonly known as Javier Bardem, but uses his mother's surname because she is part of an acting dynasty.

Penelope Cruz Sanchez

The actress has always gone by Penelope Cruz professionally. She has said that when she has her baby, her mother's last name, Sanchez, will not reach the next generation.

Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero

The Spanish Prime Minister is usually referred to by his mother's last name, Zapatero, because the name Rodriguez is so widspread.

David Villa

The Spanish footballer's full name is David Villa Sanchez. The new law would mean he will be known as David Sanchez.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
booksPhotographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years - but he says it wasn’t all fun and games...
News
i100
Sport
Aguero - who single-handedly has kept City's Champions League dreams alive - celebrates his dramatic late winner
footballManchester City 3 Bayern Munich 2: Argentine's late hat-rick sees home side snatch vital victory
News
Muhammad Ali pictured in better health in 2006
peopleBut he has enjoyed publicity from his alleged near-death experience
Arts and Entertainment
Tony breaks into Ian Garrett's yacht and makes a shocking discovery
TVReview: Revelations continue to make this drama a tough watch
News
news
News
peopleSinger tells The Independent what life is like in rehab in an exclusive video interview
News
The assumption that women are not as competent in leadership positions as men are leads to increased stress in the workplace
science... and it's down to gender stereotypes
Arts and Entertainment
Inner sanctum: Tove Jansson and friends in her studio in 1992
booksWhat was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Singer songwriter Bob Dylan performs on stage
films
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Lawyer - Cheshire

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: CHESHIRE MARKET TOWN - An exciting and rare o...

Austen Lloyd: Residential Property Solicitor - Hampshire

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: NORTH HAMPSHIRE - SENIOR POSITION - An exciti...

Recruitment Genius: Gas Installation Engineer

£29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Gas Installation Engineer is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor

£28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor is req...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital