Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 31.7.21

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable. 

– Christopher Howse: ‘A Pilgrim in Spain’ 

Cosas de España/Galiza 

Why in Spain there are two surnames and why it does not happen in most countries? See below.

Those electricity price hikes and how to minimise their impact.

This will be of interest to those looking to buy property in certain parts of Spain. Including along the Galician coast.

And this will be of interest to those in Spain who patronise Deliveroo.

And this – from the estimable Marinero – will interest those who believe in the preposterous myth of the Holy Grail. And perhaps to some who don’t.

Lenox Napier goes to jail without passing Go . . .

Casera – Gaseosa. Lemonade. Fizzy water with a hint of a lemon-tasing chemical . . .

The UK  

The “amber plus” regime for those returning from France is on one level a trivial detail, hardly newsworthy when set against the magnificent fiasco of the British pingdemic.  Yet nothing quite so illustrates the bureaucratic incoherence of Britain’s post-vaccination policy as this lunatic quarantine rule for travellers. 


Has the Swedish strategy been vindicated? Or is it still too soon to say? Currently it has a low rate of cases and no deaths, despite there being no compulsory mask-wearing. 

Finally  . . . 

Something very Spanish last night . . . Someone I didn’t know was kind enough to ring my doorbell to ask if it was my car with a window open outside my house. At midnight. Which is equivalent – according to my rule-of-thumb – to 10pm in the UK. Where this might well not have happened.

Note: If you’ve landed here looking for info on Galicia or Pontevedra, try here

THE ARTICLE  [Machine-translated from the Spanish original]

Why in Spain there are two surnames and why it does not happen in most countries?

The double surname system was consolidated in our country in the 19th century and spread throughout Latin America, but it is uncommon in much of the world.

In Spain, as well as in other Spanish-speaking countries, it is very common for newborns to have two surnames: the father’s and the mother’s. However, this system is not very common in most of the world. However, this system is not very common in the rest of the world. In fact, neither was it in our country until the 19th century, since Spaniards used to adopt a surname that they could even choose during adulthood, as explained in laSexta by Antonio Alfaro, president of the Hispanic Genealogy Association (HISPAGEN). “For centuries the choice of surnames prevailed, as long as it was not malicious, although it was most common for the firstborn to adopt the father’s name and the rest of the brothers or sisters other family surnames.” In this way, it was normal for siblings not to share a surname, since boys usually acquired their father’s and girls that of their mother, grandmother or other women in the family.

Origin and consolidation

In the 16th century, the double surname system began to spread among the upper classes of Castile, but “it was not consolidated in the rest of Spain” until the 19th century, says Alfaro. At the beginning, it was a tool to differentiate the population: “The Administration realized that it is much easier to control us with the double surname system”. Thus, it was established and in 1833 it was already very common, although it was not regulated.

It was not until 1889, with the creation of the first Spanish Civil Code, when the official use of the maternal and paternal surname was established. Specifically, Article 114 stated that “legitimate children have the right to bear the surnames of their father and mother”. Therefore, from this moment on, the double surname was extended to all areas, until it became an obligatory rule that, according to Alfaro, served to identify “in an effective and reliable way the Spaniards”. Likewise, from the point of view of the president of HISPAGEN, he also recognized the importance of the maternal surname. Currently, in Spain, the order of the surnames can be chosen, so that the first one can be that of the father or the mother.

After Spain, the custom of the double surname was incorporated into other civil registries in Latin America, where the tradition has also been maintained to the present day. But outside the Hispanic sphere, citizens usually have only one surname. For example, in Portugal, the Civil Code establishes that children may use the surnames of both parents or only one, which is the parents’ decision. If no agreement is reached, a judge will determine which will be chosen. It is customary in this country for surnames to be registered in reverse order: first the mother’s and then the father’s, which is the one usually used.

In Italy, only the father’s surname used to be used, but since 2016 the law allows both to be used. Something similar happens in France, where since 2005 the parents can choose to put both surnames, in the order they want, or one of them. Even so, in the Gallic country, more than 80% of the time it turns out to be the paternal one, with which a movement has emerged, driven by the collective Porte Mon Nom (Take my surname) and the deputy Patrick Vignal to put an end to what they call “patronymic patriarchy”.

In Germany, as in the United Kingdom and Turkey, this matter is not regulated, but married couples usually adopt the man’s surname for both partners and, therefore, also for their children. This position has been followed in many other countries such as Japan or China, although women do not lose their maiden name, or the United States, where some choose to make it their middle name.

 In Russia, and other countries such as Bulgaria, the surname is formed by adding a suffix to the father’s name, varying according to the gender of the son or daughter. On the other hand, Sweden is a rare case within Europe, because it usually adopts both surnames, in the order chosen by the parents, but, if the couple does not reach an agreement, only the maternal surname will appear in the registry.