El Centro de Muchos Colores
Most Popular Hispanic Last Names and the History Behind Them
By: Devin Munoz
1) GARCIA; 2) RODRIGUEZ; 3) MARTINEZ; 4) HERNANDEZ; 5) LOPEZ
In the U.S. there are many last names in the Hispanic community each meaning something different and having a separate history behind them. According to the 2012 U.S. census the most common last Hispanic last names are listed above in order. Now many of us either have this last name or know another with one of these names. Let us dive a little deeper to find out what the meaning behind these names and their origin through history.
From historical translations we can see that Garcia means “bear” in Spanish and even in France. Now let us explore where the name originates from. Many of these last names originated from Spain, or to be more technical, a kingdom that was a part of Spain. Garcia has been traced back as early as the Middle Ages to the specific kingdom of Navarre. From this kingdom many of the Garcia’s spread throughout Spain spreading into many other kingdoms. Garcia was even spread into France where it slightly changed from its Spanish pronunciation, for example Garcon. Garcia was also commonly used as a first name in medieval Spain among different families of different social hierarchy. This crest depicts one of the Garcia family crests around. The name would be spread to the new world places such as Cuba, Mexico, Honduras, and many South American countries.
The name Rodriguez comes from an interesting origin as it comes from a Germanic origin from the Visigoths who invaded Spain in the 400s and left a name. The original name in the Germanic language was “hrodric” which translates to renown power or famous power. The first recorded use and spelling of the family name is Heinrich Rodigerus in 1260 in Lubeck, in now Germany. However this name wasn’t officially adopted in Spain until in church registers of Rodriquez de Leon in 1536 and Juan Rodriquez de Santos in 1662 in Valladolid, Spain. The meaning of the name changed in Spanish to mean “the son of rodrick” as the “ez” at the end of the name means “the son of.” Again this family crest shows of the many different Rodríguez family crests that exist. Some of the earlier records of Rodriguez in the new world date from the 1560’s with names such as Vicente Rodríguez, Beatriz Rodríguez, Sebastian Rodríguez and Bartolomé Rodríguez to name a few. Some of these names settled in places such as Peru, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Nicaragua, and many other Central American countries.
The third most popular family name we will explore will be the family of Martínez. Let us explore the original meaning of the name. The name, just as in Rodríguez in a way, translates to “son of martin.” Martin originates from Latin to the name Martinus or Mars, which is associated with the Roman god of war and fertility. Martínez was brought into Spain by the Christian faith in the early years around the 4th century. Where, in Spain, it was changed to the common name that we see today. One of the first recorded spellings of the name in Spain was by Martínez di Castille around 1580 in Madrid during the reign of King Philip II. Accounts of the name in the new world show up around the time of the 1520s. The name could be seen in Juan Martínez de Ampués who was governor of Santo Domingo and later was governor of Curaçao. Other accounts of the name can be seen in Peru, Nicaragua, and Cuba around the mid-1500.
The Fourth most popular name to be explored is the Hernández family name where the name translates to mean “son of Fernando.” This name originates from the Visigoth name of Ferdinand which means “traveler or bold voyager.” The name has been said to have become popular with King Ferdinand III of Castille and León, who led the Reconquista of Spain against the Moors (Muslims). One of the first mention or appearance of the Hernandez family name in the new world is in Brazil around the mid 1600’s. Other mentions of the name appear in Mexico, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico, and many more nations.
The last most popular name that we will look into briefly is the family name of Lopez. The origin of the name Lopez can be attributed and traced to Latin word of “Lupus” or “Wolf.” Again remember that in many names ending with “ez” this usually translates to “Son of.” So the name Lopez translates to “Son of the Wolf,” with many different variations in different areas such as Portugal, Romania, Italy, and many others. The name presumed to have arrived in Spain or the kingdom of Castille by the Romans during their conquest and rule of their empire in Spain. There are early mentions of the name in the new world which appear in Mexico, Chile, Hispaniola, Colombia, and Nicaragua along with other South American countries. There have been many famous people attributed to this name both in our time and in history. One famous name that is not widely known is one of Fernando Cortes’s captains Francisco Lopez who helped in the exploration and battles against the Mexica (Aztecs). There of course are many famous names now such as Jennifer Lopez, George Lopez, and Mario Lopez just to name a few.
Our last names can tell a lot about ourselves and even information we didn’t even know. I claim to be no expert on names or their history but some research that anyone can do can show you history unknown before. If these aren’t your names listed here don’t be discouraged feel free to look into the meaning and history of your family name. You may be surprised in what you find. And that is your history lesson of the week.
Want to contribute to Devin's research on popular Spanish last names and their origins? Fill out this form and email him here with any information about any of the names of Spanish origin!