What's in a Latino Name? Heritage & Some Creativity

A friend of mine is pregnant with her third child. After two girls, she’s now having a boy and everybody’s really excited. But the other day she told me she was having a really hard time choosing a name for a boy because she is a bilingual Latina, her husband is American and they'd like to make sure the name they choose sounds the same in both English and Spanish and goes well with their last name.

For some – especially within the Latino population – naming their child might not be a very difficult task. They could choose the name of someone in the family, their father or mother, or another relative whom they want to honor or as a kind of tradition passed on from generation to generation.

Like, my husband, for example.

He carries his father’s name as does his son from his first marriage. I respect this decision, but I don’t agree with it. Even though I absolutely love my name (I’m not named after anybody and no one else in my family has my name), I just can’t fathom having two Roxanas in the house. I think it’d be not only confusing, but it also feels like it robs the new member of the family a bit of their own identity.

So when we were choosing names for our two children we had to look for other choices. While it was important for us that the names reflect our Latino roots, it was even more so that they could be easily pronounced by English-speaking people. In other words, I didn’t want to choose the kind of name that would be so difficult for English-only speakers that it would end up being butchered.

In the end, we tried to choose names that pretty much sounded the same way in both languages. I think we did a good job with my daughter’s name, Vanessa, but I’m not so sure about my son’s name, Santiago. We haven’t really had major problems with people pronouncing it expect that many times they don’t really pronounce the T, so it sounds more like Saniago. I guess that’s not too bad.

How did you choose your children’s names?

Roxana A. Soto is an Emmy-winning Peruvian-born, Denver-based bilingual journalist and the co-founder of SpanglishBaby.com.

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