Jan 5, 2016

Spanish Last Names

This blog will have a lot of stories about the Maryland Prats’ ancestors in Cuba, so a quick explanation of Spanish last names is in order.  In the Spanish-speaking world, folks have their official name and most often an abbreviated version of their name that they are known by. Take for example, Benito H. Prats’ father, Pepe Prats (1893–1962).  His name according to his birth certificate is “José Cecilo y Luis Prats Amat.”   José is his first name, Cecilio y Luis his middle name (I’m sure there’s a story there). His last names were Prats and Amat. Prats is his father’s first last name. Amat is his mother’s first last name.  Pepe is a typical nickname for José.

His friends called him Pepe Prats. (In Camagüey’s vernacular pronunciation you would hear a rapid “Pepepra”. More refined speakers spoke a bit slower and pronounced all the letters.) He would introduce himself as José Prats.  If he could be confused with another José Prats in conversation —not likely in Camagüey; but very likely in the region of his birth, Catalonia, Spain, where Prats were like Smiths are here— then José Prats Amat would come into play. Folks with common last names such as Martinez or Garcia may have decided early-on to be known by both of their last names and would introduce themselves that way.

So let’s look at Generation One’s official names. Here they are from their birth certificates:
            Benito Humberto Esteban Prats Respall
            Mariana Guadalupe de la Caridad Martínez Rodríguez

His father was a Prats. His mother was a Respall. He had two middle names. Her father was a Martínez. Her mother was a Rodríguez. She had one compound middle name that she abbreviated to just Guadalupe.

And this how they wished to be known when they lived in Camaguey:
            Benito H. Prats MD • Mariana G. Martínez

And this is how you would address them formally:
            Dr. Benito Prats • Srta. Mariana Martínez

And after they were married, only this changed:
            Dr. Benito Prats • Sra. Mariana Martínez

  Women do not change their names in the Spanish-speaking world when they marry.  They can unofficially add their husband’s last name to their name like this when they or someone else wants to emphasize or acknowledge the marriage: Mariana Guadalupe Martinez Rodriguez de Prats.  Or simply, Sra. Mariana Martinez de Prats. There is no “Mrs. Benito Prats” equivalent in Spanish. I wonder where that came from in English!

In a newspaper article, the first reference would use both last names, “Dr. Benito Prats Respall, and his lovely wife Mariana Martínez Rodríguez,” and subsequent references would be “Dr. Prats” and ”Sra. Martínez”

The common honorifics are: Dr. for a male doctor, Dra. for a female doctor (doctora), Sr. for señor (Mr.), Sra. for señora (Mrs.), and Srta. for señorita (Miss.).

One more thing. Some folks, often when both their last names were the same and sometimes just because, would separate their two last names with “y” (meaning “and”). Mariana’s uncle signed his name as Antonio Martínez y Martínez.  Perhaps there was another Antonio Martínez that he did not wish to be confused with.

José Prats and Eduvigis Respall de Prats

Benito Prats and Mariana Martínez. 
Elia Maria Martinez is on the horse.

Antonio Martínez y Martínez
Antonio Martínez y Martínez