The emotional complexity of that cultural changeover means that parents don’t just switch from Latin names to English ones in a single go. Rather, says Jasso, they may pass through a three-stage process, “with bilingual names becoming popular for a while. Those are names like Hector and Daniel for boys and Sandra and Cecilia for girls.” [Time Magazine, Adios Juan and Juanita: Latin names trend down]
When my parents, Carlos and Luz, chose baby names, they picked names that would sound good in English and Spanish. It made sense to them. They were born in Mexico, but emigrated as school-age children. Although they are fluent in their native and adopted tongues, their parents barely spoke English. Thus, they avoided names that would be mangled by their parents and chose Daniel (well, Grandma chose that name), Cynthia, Laura and Adrian.
I like their approach. I’m not sure mom and dad saw themselves in some sort of “cultural changeover,” but their names as well as the names they chose for their children fit into the three-stage process.
As I read Jeffrey Kluger’s article on Latino names trending downward I wondered about the general premise: distinctly Latino names are dying out as the percentage of foreign born Latinos diminishes and those who are here become more assimilated. Kluger cites data from the Social Security Administration on changes in popularity for baby names.
He has a point. I know few people with old-school names like Refugio, Bartolo (my grandpa!), Antonia (that would be my Mamá Toní) and Herminia in my parents’ generation, let alone in my generation. I’m sure those names are becoming less and less popular in Mexico just as names like Edith, Gertrude and Charles become less popular in the US.
I doubt his claim that the rise in names like Sandra and Daniel (which has been popular since the 70s, the earliest I checked) comes from Latino parents seeking bilingual names for their babies. There’s no evidence that all these Sandras, Daniels and Cecilias were born to Latino parents (or parent).
Moreover, Kluger ignores the rising rates of intermarriage between Latinos and non-Latinos (another measure of assimilation). Could this make a difference in naming? Of course. In my family, cousins who married non-Mexicans chose non-Spanish names for their children. Also, we don’t know which Latinos are choosing Anglicized names. Is there a difference between native-born and foreign-born Latinos? And if so, what is it?
I don’t have the data to answer these questions. Instead, I checked the popularity of names for newborns in 2008 in states with larger numbers of Mexicans (there I go being Mexican-centric) on the Social Security Administration website.
In California, Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico bilingual boys’ names are very popular (e.g., Daniel is consistently in the top 5, as is Angel). There were several Latino names in the top 100 for boys born in 2008. In California, names like Luis, Juan, Ricardo, and Jorge were more popular than their English counterparts. Other Latino names, such as Alejandro (51) and Miguel (44), were much less popular than Alexander (6) and Michael (14), respectively. And then there is José, the top boys’ name in Texas, #8 in Arizona and #10 in Calfornia. In case you’re wondering, it’s more popular than Joseph in each of these states.
Of course, I checked out the popular girls’ names in these states. Kluger’s argument makes a lot more sense if you consider girls. In the top 100 names, it was much more difficult to find the Latino names except in obvious cases like María. Bilingual names were more popular than more traditional Latino names and fit the “three-stage” process. In California Sophia/Sofia (3/17), Olivia (11), Valeria (14), Victoria (20), Andrea (21) and Camila (22) were all more popular than María (42).
I don’t know what this means. Why do boys names like José, Jesús, Juan, and Manuel continue to be popular (all in the top 100)? Why are girls’ names less Latino, more bilingual in nature (e.g. Isabel, Natalia, and Angelina). Could it do with the common practice of naming boys after their fathers? Maybe. Or maybe not.
I can just imagine the family of kids named Jesús, Manuel, Ashley and Emily born to a José y María. I’m sure they’re out there. And they’ll come up with a whole new slew of nicknames.