11 years ago when I registered my daughter Ana’s birth in the Registro Civil office in Madrid I was enticed by the idea that she was most likely the first Spanish citizen with that last name “Murdock” in the history of the country. To those of you unfamiliar with the subject, just briefly, Spaniards normally have two last names. I know it sounds childish to take pride in such things, but what the heck, in an age when it seems that everything has been done before, I found the notion entertaining.
What concerned me was that they would become the first and last Murdocks who could vote here, dance flamenco with some sense of rhythm and make a good paella, because by the next generation, their first last name would be relegated to second place, and a generation later disappear all together. All hope of changing that depended on my successfully siring a male son, but there was little cooperation at home on that issue.
Thank God, though, the socialists have come to save the day. I bet my mom thought she would never live to see the day that one of her children would utter such a phrase let alone print it on the internet for all witness. But it is the truth.
This week the Spanish government proposed a bill which would effectively upend one of this country’s deepest traditions, as well as do away with one of the last great bastions of male bias in this country. Instead of the father-first mother-second placement, the order could be set the other way around if the parents so chose to. This of course would prove a tough pill to swallow for many traditional Spanish men, but that is only a part of the controversy, because the final decision may be beyond their control. If neither party agrees on the which should lead the two, then the authorities would autmatically find in favor of whichever name came first alphabetically. So, if your last name is Abad, for example, you could pretty much give two hoots whether or not your partner agrees with you…you would have the final say.
The bill is clearly an attempt to give greater gender equality in areas where there is no real justification for discrimination other than the fact it is custom. If you think about it, though, the only thing unique to Spain is the application of both surnames, but the male dominance part can be found in throughout the Western world. If anything you could say the Spanish have the decency to recognize the mother which is more than we can say for most other cultures. After all, she did gestate it, bring it into the world and handle much of early rearing. Why would she want her name on the list of credits? And why, say the Socialists, can’t it be first?
I think they have a well-taken point there, but, nonetheless, the news has been the brunt of numerous humerous observations, as people jestingly predict future relationships will be conditioned on what the last names. If you are a López, well start looking from “M” onwards if you want your surname to persevere. And if you happen to be a Zúniga, you might as well give up because your last name could be in serious danger of extinction.
If there is one issue I take with the bill it is from a practical standpoint. If it were to pass and, say, 30 years from now the practice became commonplace, then you would have a helluvah time trying to determine which of the two parents the last name is referring to. I say this because I fell it is my duty to hassle whenever I can. The good thing would be that, as long as my daughters marry a man whose last name begins with an “N” or farther, there is an outside chance the Murdocks will make it yet another generation or two. And now I can rest assured. And my wife can rest at night!