Chosing a name…the legal complexities of cross-cultural naming

We wanted to choose a name for our little boy that could be both English and Spanish… something that people in both countries would recognise and be able to pronounce.  We found out we were having a boy at the 20 week scan and had settled on S as a firm choice within a few weeks.  I would have liked to give him a middle name…. but L was not having any of it!  The surname, however, was a lot more complicated.

When L and I got married in 2007 we decided that it would make sense for me to take his full surname as is the custom here in the UK.  We didn’t really give much thought to the impact of our choice of surname on any future children at that point.  The assumption was that as we would be living in the UK then any children would also take on our surname.

Fast forward six years with the birth of our first child fast approaching, we started to look into how to register a birth and apply for Mexican citizenship for the new baby.  Although it is not the Mexican tradition for all family members to have the name surname, we did not anticipate any problems with registering our surname.


However, it seems that surnames in Mexico are strictly dictated by law and must be the first paternal surname followed by the first maternal surname.  We checked with the Mexican Embassy in London, explaining that I had changed by name on marriage and under the normal UK circumstances the baby would take our surname.  They replied that whatever he may be called in the UK, as a Mexican he would be have to be called by Paternal Surname followed by Maternal Surname.  Looking into the law on surnames in the UK, I found out that you can in fact give your child pretty much any surname you like – it does not need to relate to the parents at all!

I would have liked us all to have the same surname, however, we thought that having two different names in two different passports might confuse things if we were ever to move back to Mexico and need to prove school attendance or qualifications.  Useful if you are planning to train up your baby as an international spy but otherwise probably best to stick to one name.

We decided in the end to name our son according to the Mexican tradition, although for most every day business we will just use the first part, so superficially we do all have the same surname!


2 thoughts on “Chosing a name…the legal complexities of cross-cultural naming

  1. Pingback: Names, names, names… | All The Anomalous Bits

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