AS FROM the end of this month, the system of how a Spanish family name their child is changing. Up until that point – June 30th – the surname of the child’s father always has precedence over that of the mother in the double surnames that every Spaniard has.
This is as a result of the reform of the Civil Registry which means that parents must now agree on the order of the surnames used.
The Director General of Registries and Notaries of the Ministry of Justice believes that in most cases there will be agreement between the father and the mother in the order of surnames, and in any case the registration must be made within three days of the birth should there be any difference from the status quo. In this scenario, the father’s name will take preference.
These changes in the law were first discussed as far back as 2010 when the automatic right of the father’s name to be used first was muted.
Spaniards have two surnames, and under current law either can come first. Traditionally, however, it is the father’s, and in cases of a dispute the father’s name automatically takes priority.
Spanish women do not change their surnames at marriage. There has, however, always been a certain flexibility about which of their two surnames Spaniards give most prominence.
Artist Pablo Picasso, for example, chose his second surname, as did the actor Antonio Banderas. Their first surnames, Ruíz and Domínguez respectively, were obviously too commonplace.
Footballer David Silva also prefers his mother’s surname and former Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero is more commonly known by his second surname. The full name of pop singer Enrique Iglesias is Enrique Iglesias Preysler. He is the son of Julio José Iglesias de la Cueva and María Isabel Preysler Arrastia.
The practice of a person being given two family names became the custom in Spain largely because of Arabic influence.
The example below gives an example of a typical Spanish family and the wealth of surnames used. In most of the world, they would have just one…
Father – José García Rodríguez Mother – Anna Cifuentes López
First child – Juan García Cifuentes, who marries Sofia Martínez Riquelme
Grandchild – Davíd García Martínez.