Saturday, November 17, 2007

¿Como se llama?

The New York Times reports that Hispanic surnames such as Garcia and Rodriguez are moving to the top of the list of the most common names in America.

The number of Hispanics living in the United States grew by 58 percent in the 1990s to nearly 13 percent of the total population, and cracking the list of top 10 names suggests just how pervasively the Latino migration has permeated everyday American culture.

Garcia moved to No. 8 in 2000, up from No. 18, and Rodriguez jumped to No. 9 from 22nd place. The number of Hispanic surnames among the top 25 doubled, to 6.


Reinaldo M. Valdes, a board member of the Miami-based Spanish American League Against Discrimination, said the milestone “gives the Hispanic community a standing within the social structure of the country.”

“People of Hispanic descent who hardly speak Spanish are more eager to take their Hispanic last names,” he said. “Today, kids identify more with their roots than they did before.”

Demographers pointed to more than one factor in explaining the increase in Hispanic surnames.

Generations ago, immigration officials sometimes arbitrarily Anglicized or simplified names when foreigners arrived from Europe.

“The movie studios used to demand that their employees have standard Waspy names,” said Justin Kaplan, an historian and co-author of “The Language of Names.”

“Now, look at Renée Zellweger,” Mr. Kaplan said.

Depending on where you go in the country, Hispanic surnames are more common than the Anglo ones, and in some states, it’s the Anglos who are the immigrants.

For example, in New Mexico, Hispanic surnames were the dominant cognomens for centuries, ever since Don Juan Oñate came up the Rio Grande and settled in the Albuquerque area in 1598.

For what it’s worth, my family name is still in the top ten. We’re everywhere.