Wednesday, February 25, 2015


After a few weeks in Costa Rica, my host mom started calling me "Cindy María", since it just didn't feel right to her that I didn't have a middle name.  And, being a country heavily influenced by the Catholic Church, María seemed an appropriate name for her to give me.  (When I first learned I'd be living with their family, I was tickled to learn that I'd be living with three María's and two Luis's.  When I arrived, I found they used nicknames to keep everything straight--there was "Papa Luis" and "Lucho" for young Luis.  There was "Maru" for María Eugenia, "Eu" for Eugenia María, and "María" for the other María).

After I had dated Caleb for a while, I noticed that he called me "Lucia" when he talked with his friends and family about me.  When I asked him why, he said it's because my face is full of light (luz) and so they had chosen that nickname for me.  I was flattered, of course.  I definitely like "Lucia" much better than "wink wink", a nickname my family chose for one of my brother's girlfriends!

So, after that, my host mom started calling me "Cindy Lucia".

When Caleb learned about my Mormon background, he talked about being really confused when he met Mormon missionaries and they all had the name of "Elder".  They explained that "Elder" is a title instead of a name, but he still likes to joke that he's going to change his name to "Elder Hernandez" to help me feel more comfortable.

So, at times we joke about the relationship of Lucia and Elder Hernandez.

One of the many things I love about Costa Rica is their naming traditions.  Unlike in the U.S., there's no expectation that women will change their names when they marry.  I like that, because when I was married before I felt a huge loss at losing my name--it felt like a loss of my identity, especially when I'd see things written like "Mr. & Mrs. Allen"--I knew I was in there somewhere, but didn't relate with any part of that name.

My parents spent a lot of effort teaching me that my Conlin name represented integrity and encouraged my siblings and I to live good and clean lives to live up to the reputation for integrity my parents and grandparents had established in our small town.  When my ex-husband did things that were less honest than I'd prefer, I felt ashamed to be carrying his name.  Some people think women need to change their names to establish family unity, but I think family unity can be established without requiring the woman to suffer a loss of identity.  The Costa Rican tradition achieves this by creating a new family name that is a double name, a combination of one name from the wife and another from the husband. 

And, I very much like the tradition that when children come, they receive the combined family name that includes names from both the wife and the husband.  The English/American tradition of giving only the father's surname to the children always seemed like an injustice to me, especially since it is the woman who exerts all the effort to bring the child into the world and often times performs the majority of the work to raise the child.  It's only fair that the child should receive a name from her as well.


Rebecca Clack said...

You KNOW how I feel about the whole name thing in the US. But, I must admit it was hard to join the Ray-Rose-Charlie family and be the only one with a different last name. Was confusing for kids, and I think that needs to be considered. Names are so personal and such an important part of identity.
Your blogging is great because of photos and details. So appreciate all aspects of CR life you share (and explain.)

Lori said...

I love this post!! My mom felt the exact same way. I would love to be able to pass that tradition on to my kids...keep both names to start your own family and create unity from that. I love it!!

Paige said...

Cindy Lucia is so appropriate and descriptive. I'm liking these people MUY MUCHO.