Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Monday, May 20, 2013

Background for clueless teachers

If, like me, you don't have direct exposure to Hispanic culture or you never had a Hispanic student in class to clue you in, here's a thoughtful and guilt-free explanation of why the Mexican president is  called Enrique Peña Nieto or the previous president was called Felipe Calderón Hinojosa or why the jailed head of the Mexican teachers' union is called Elba Esther Gordillo Morales.

And it will help you make sense out of non-Hispanic media who sometimes refer to President Nieto and other times refer to President Peña.

Hispanic Last Names: Why Two of Them?
One of the most misunderstood characteristics of Hispanic culture is the use of our last names…

Most Hispanic people use two last names? How can that be? How can you have two of the "last" thing? Well, in Spanish a last name is not called a last name (último nombre would be the literal translation of last name and it is meaningless in Spanish). In Spanish, the last name has a name of its own, it is called apellido. The proper translation to English is surname, a term that is seldom used in the U.S. Surname (or apellido) does not mean "last." So, when you talk about someone's last name you talk about their apellidos (surnames) since there are two of them. The two surnames are referred as the first apellido and the second apellido. Also, we refer to our first name by just name, and the middle name is referred as second name instead of middle. But I will focus on the last name issues…

In general in the US, the family as a group is addressed by the last name of the husband. In Hispanic circles, the family is addressed by the combination of the first surname of each of the partners in the marriage, which is the same of the surnames of the children of the marriage…

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