This is the introduction of the book Baby Names from Puerto Rico: Trendy, Creative and Unique Names from the Island of Enchantment.
Puerto Rican Baby Names
If you visit the Island of Enchantment, you may notice that many young people’s names are unknown to you. Apparently the tradition of naming the children to preserve the memory of mom or dad is not used anymore.
Puerto Ricans are very creative and unique in this process of naming their children. Today, for us it is not enough to name our baby with a simple common name in Spanish such as María, Ana, Pedro, Antonio or Luis. Now, the trend is to create new, unique names for our babies. This creative process often occurs when we combine names, for example the names of both parents or two names we like. That is why it is common to have friends with names such as Kathyenid (woman), Jonathaniel (man), Kaoru (woman) or Sadiel (man).
Baby Names Around the World
Some countries regulate baby names. Chile, New Zealand, Denmark, Portugal, Germany, France, and Iceland are examples. In 2009, the judge José Ángel Aquino from the Dominican Republic submitted without success a resolution to ban names that were “derogatory, extravagant or vulgar such as those used to refer to body parts, brands, commercial names, science fiction characters, offensive words, among others.” With this project, the judge attempted to prohibit names like “Bobona Guerrero de los Santos, Tonton Ruiz, Adicto de los Santos, Seno Jiménez, Ernesto Che Pérez, Winston Churchill de la Cruz, John F. Kennedy Santana (and) Rambo Mota.”
In the January 14th, 2012 issue of The Economist an article was published on government regulations regarding baby names. This article makes reference to a survey made by the economists Roland Fryer and Steven Levitt that conclude “that nearly 30% of black girls in California in the 1990s received a first name that they share with no other baby born in the state in the same year”. In my opinion, something similar could be happening in Puerto Rico.
I haven’t found any formal study of this practice on the Island, but there are some comments in the media about it. Press articles have stated some of the difficulties created by “inventing” a name:
1. You cannot distinguish if it is a boy or a girl’s name.
2. The child will have difficulties learning how to write his/her name.
4. Official document mistakes that could lead to denying the validation of a document or extra charges to correct them.
But none of these arguments are good enough to stop the creativity of the Boricuas. In my opinion, it is totally valid that the parents have a desire to have a unique and special name for their child. At the end of the day, the kid will have both their genes and it is so fascinating that the name is a reflection of that.
What makes a name unique?
For this book, Baby Names from Puerto Rico: Trendy, Creative and Unique Names from the Island of Enchantment, I have identified the following methods of arriving at a baby’s name:
1. Two or more names combined. (Example: Ana + Natalia = Anatalia, Jared + Diana = Jariana, Karla + Lissette = Karlaissette)
2. Alternate ways to write a common name. (Example: Jessika for Jessica, Karmen for Carmen, Alanys for Alanis)
3. A totally new creation. (Example: Keidaliz, Zoidariam)
4. Names that were made popular because of the media exposure. (Example: Tanairí, Shakira, Yandel)
5. Names used by past generations, but that are not popular anymore. (Example: Ruperta, Petronila)
6. Borrow the name from a well known word, perhaps without even realizing it. Within this book you will find names from a brand of chocolate, a State in the United States, an African city, a brand of body cream, a famous Muppet, a car model and a country.
Names of Saints
This practice of young parents creating names is the main content of this book, but there are also non-common names in adults. Why? In past generations, the selection of a baby’s name was often decided according to the Saint of the Day. This was a tradition in Catholic countries. Catholics follow the Liturgical Calendar that gives the dates when a Saint is honored. Since there are approximately 10,000 saints or candidates awaiting sainthood, there is more than one option for every day of the year. For example, if I were born 70 years ago –in the times of my grandparents or great grandparents- in Puerto Rico, my name could have been be Godeleva, Julita, Leopolda or Ursa. But don’t worry, if your baby is born on July 30th and you want to follow this Catholic tradition there are other options such as Josefina or María. Now-a-days this tradition is no longer practiced in Puerto Rico.
Celebrity names or mistakes
Besides using current names to create new ones, Puerto Ricans use celebrity names, just as happens in other countries. For instance, the name of the reggaeton singer Yandel from the musical group Wisin & Yandel entered the Social Security Administration’s most common names list in 2003 just when his career started taking off. In that year 49 boys were registered with his name and grew continuously every subsequent year through 2006 when it peaked at 96 boys registered. After that, the amount of boys named Yandel has been lowering, but is still on the list of the most popular with 45 boys registered in 2010. We don’t know why his fellow partner Wisin didn’t achieve the same because his name is not even mentioned on the lists.
There are also uncommon names created by accident and the best story that illustrates this is my sister Analiza. Yes, she is the only person I know that has a name that is actually a verb (translation: Analize). My parents’ idea was to name her Ana Lisa, but the person in the Demographic Registrar’s office wrote her name incorrectly.
Even though there is this trend of creating new names, the “traditional” names are still more popular. For example, according to information of the Social Security Administration –that reports separate name statistic for Puerto Rico- during the last 12 years the number one name for a boy is Luis. For girls, the favorite is Alondra and is in the Top 5 every year.
We hope this compilation stimulates and sparks the creativity of you as new parents to find the ideal name for your baby. We don’t pretend to study the origin and meaning of each name in this book. Baby Names from Puerto Rico celebrates the uniqueness of each person by providing ideas to name others. Enjoy this ever-so-important step in your baby’s life!
If you have a unique name, please share it with us in the comments.
Check out these other Puerto Rican Culture articles.
Featured photo credit: Littlest_Flag_Boy_1FL by J_Arrr!, on Flickr