Saturday, October 02, 2010

Pleased To Meet You, Hope You Guess My Name… No? Okay, It’s Hitler Rodriguez

A few years ago, we were witnesses to the registration of a newborn baby at the civil registry here, an event we came to call the “Welcome to the Bureaucracy, Kid” ceremony. Unlike in the US, where a baby is born and someone hands you a birth certificate and that’s pretty much it, in Mexico the parents have to bring the infant in person before a public official who records the birth and all (and we do mean all) the relevant data in the presence of two duly sworn witnesses. Reams of documentation are required, and in this particular case, the witnesses being non-Mexicans, we each had to provide a binder full of information of our own. By the end of the morning, the squirming little girl had a file almost two inches thick, and another 80 years for it to grow.

And the whole thing was almost derailed at the last minute because of a weird law we’d never heard of, Article 36 of the Civil Code of Querétaro, that makes it illegal to give your child a stupid name – or, more specifically, a name that “contains unintelligible words or phrases, or may cause future ridicule or contempt.” This goes a long way towards explaining why Mexicans all seem to share like two dozen names. In our case, the baby’s file wound up containing a couple of pages from Wikipedia hastily printed out at an internet café, to prove to the bureaucracy that “Oriana” is an actual name held by respectable people.

We thought of this last week when we went to an exhibit of birth certificates at the Museo de la Restauracion de la Republica. We still can’t quite figure out the point of it – it was mostly just some photocopied birth certificates stuck to the wall – but there was text of Article 36 blown up poster-size and, next to it, a list of “curious names found in Querétaro” – including such curiosities as “Donald” and “Enzo.” (We totally agree that “Circumcision” is a “curious name.”)

But our favorite had to be the list of “names of famous people utilized by people in Querétaro,” which is for some reason a separate category from “curious names” – apparently because there’s nothing curious about naming your Mexican child Elvis, Ringo or Ozzy. We were especially struck by #2 on the list: somewhere in this state, some absolutely awesome parents convinced a bureaucrat that “Hitler” was not a name likely to cause future ridicule or contempt. Though in fairness, Hitler does have a Wikipedia entry.


Anonymous said...

OK, the Hitler thing was pretty bad but I would love to see that law enacted here in the USA. Think of all the poor kids that have gone through their lives with rediculous names because the parents thought they were cute or funny! A lot of angst could have been avioded!

Anonymous said...

That law is actually quite new, it was created because many parents didn't research the meaning of the name or the word used (like circumcision or Hitler) and when grown ups the people ask the judge to change name, there where so many name changes that the government decided to stop stupid names.

"Michael Jackson González Martínez" sounds quite silly, and it will be ridicule in youth, and probably changed when he turn 18.

I knew a girl named "Chostan" because of the virgin of Schoenstatt (there is a sanctuary in Queretaro) but since the parents didn't know how to write it or even pronounce it they register her as Chostan

Tannu said...

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