Not all Hispanic women are called Maria and not all Hispanic men are called Juan

03 Apr 2009|Added Value

Maria is a common name in Latin America and it is true that a lot of Hispanic women here in the US have that name (including me), but it is not because people in Latin America lack of originality or only like one name. The real reason is that most of those Marias that you may know or have ever met have a middle name. In Latin America the middle name is as important as the first name, and people use and are called by both names. So, yes, the first name of several Hispanic women is Maria but if you look at both first and middle names you will find a wide variety of options: Maria Milagros, Maria Lucia, Maria Carolina, Maria Jose, Maria del Carmen, etc. The same happens in the case of Hispanic males called Juan, usually their complete name is Juan Carlos, Juan Pablo (like Juan Pablo Montoya, the NASCAR racer), Juan Camilo, Juan Jose, Juan Manuel, Juan Esteban (by the way, that is the real name of JUANES), etc.

So what? Well, when Hispanics move to the US, their middle name automatically becomes just an initial, it disappears from documents, and from their life. It was my situation when I first moved to the U.S., I would introduce myself as “Maria Lucia” and people would spontaneously answer “hi Maria” and “Lucia” disappeared from all my documents; suddenly I became “Maria L.” That never happened to me before coming to this country and at the beginning it sounded weird. I had never been called Maria before, but after a while I got used to be called just Maria and I started introducing myself as Maria, its shorter and easier to pronounce (off course, because people here are very familiar with that name). I have had so many nicknames in my entire life that “Maria” turned out being my “American nickname” and I now like it. But in reality, Hispanics tend to prefer to be called by their first and middle name, because that is their name and it is a cultural preference. When I got direct mail from a company and they use my complete name that usually catches my attention, the same when I get a call from a telemarketer, or for instance when I got my credit card and my middle name was not just an initial I felt like this credit card really belonged to me. Being called in the U.S. by first and middle name feels more personal and gives the perception that this company has a better understanding of the Hispanic culture.

So, this is just a tip, but next time you meet a “Maria” or a “Juan” ask their middle name, it is very likely they will have one and they will appreciate to be called by both names. Or next time you are creating a personalized execution for Hispanics (i.e. membership card, direct mail, letter, etc) that includes a name do not use just the initial of their middle name, use the complete name, it will probably connect more with the Hispanic person receiving it.

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