Spanish tradition is confusing

Lauren Keene’s report Sunday doubtless reflects accurately the complaint filed against Hector Coría Gonzales. Less accurately, the story goes on to call the suspect simply “Gonzales.” And readers may wonder why police identified him as “Hector Coría” when they arrested him. Well, they did that because that’s his name.

Once again, unnecessary confusion has been created about someone’s Spanish surname. The suspect’s full name using the Spanish convention is Hector Coría Gonzales. In that convention, the mother’s maiden name goes at the end. It’s often abbreviated (Hector Coría G.) — or omitted, when the name is shortened still further.

In the English convention, of course, the mother’s last name before her marriage is not usually part of her children’s last name. So the usual practice in English-speaking countries is to omit the last part of the full Spanish name, leaving only one “last name,” to avoid confusion.

Unfortunately, when something newsworthy happens, the full Spanish name often comes to light. Next thing you know, someone’s being called “Gonzales” for the first time in his life. Though he’s a suspected felon, we should still get his name right. But he’ll probably be Gonzales from now on.

Julian Irias

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