Ask a Mexican!

Dear Mexican,

Why do Mexicans change their names, seemingly at whim? For example, Antonio Garcia Rodriguez is Antonio Garcia on Monday and Antonio Rodriguez on Wednesday. And by Saturday, he might call himself Pedro Garcia! Is this a plot to confuse whitey? It's working if it is!

--No More Nombres

Dear Gabacho,

From the moment a Mexican is born until the day he's seis pies abajo, a Mexican's sole goal in life is to confound gabachos—commanded so by diosito en el cielo in Leviticus, it is. But the long-winded names Mexicans use isn't part of that conspiracy. You can actually find a version of your question in my ¡Ask a Mexican! book, but let me reiterate: Traditionally, a Mexican's full name constituted four parts—a first name, a middle nombre, a surname, and the mother's apellido (more than a few Mexis drop the middle name and use those initials to create cool belt buckles). This insistence on honoring the maternal and paternal sides of the familia, however, wreaks desmadre on American legal forms, which frequently mistake the maternal name for the last name, a middle name for a surname, or a surname for a middle name. And now you know why far too many Mexis get pulled aside by the TSA—oh, and that whole Tío Lencho-looks-like-Saddam Hussein thing . . .

 
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