Spain is a land rich in diversity of cuisine and culture, natural wonders and memorable personalities. But it's a bit of a bore when it comes to names: the 10 most popular last names are shared by 38% of the population. One twist is that children get both their father’s and their mother’s last name, with the father’s always coming first. But this is all about to change, adding a bit more diversity to phone books in Madrid and Barcelona.

The double-name practice has led to the dominance of only a few names, and it is not uncommon that both parents have the same last names. That leads some to tout the same last names twice, just like the former regional president of Madrid, Ignacio Gonzalez Gonzalez, currently under investigation for corruption. Imagine if your own governor were called John Smith Smith (even if he weren't under investigation).

The new civil registry law might finally bring some diversity to Spanish last names, explains Munich-based Suddeutsche Zeitung. It would allow parents to decide to put the mother’s name first, which until now was only possible after a request to a family court judge. This time-consuming option was chosen by less than 1% of couples. Parents will now have three days after birth to decide in which order to put the child’s last names. If no agreement is found, the civil registry officer will decide: the father’s name would not necessarily come first, as most cases would be decided according to alphabetical order. Anna Salort, a family law and civil rights specialist, speaking in the Madrid newspaper El Mundo, offers some advice: “The parents should settle on the name before the deadline expires. I don’t think you would want you child’s last name decided by a third person.”

The lawyer sees this a step that would move Spain's gender divide “closer to equality." The rooted patriarchy has made it so that all around the world, men’s last names are more dominant, and now Spain is offering a different option. It already changed the law for single mothers in 2005, who are no longer compelled to give their children the father’s name, which in some cases had to be invented.

On a purely bureaucratic level, it should limit the risk of mistakes made by Spain’s civil registry, which must currently keep track of over three million Garcias. Olé!


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