My Culture Collection is like a pocket full of interesting pebbles found along the way. Geology is part of the reason we are in Bolivia now, but that is a story for another time. In a geology class scientific terms for specific rocks are taught. A familiar one would be fossil. A not so familiar one would be diluvium: accumulations of gravel and loose materials. Interesting, right? My point is that names are extremely important, even when it comes to rocks.
Timid introductions when we had first arrived in Bolivia were usually followed by a confusing question: what is your other last name? At first I thought it was odd because I assumed that they were asking about my maiden name or my middle name. Why would that matter? Until I learned that Bolivians have two last names, and that is just the way it is. On all legal documents there is a blank for the last name given to you from your father and the last name given to you from your mother, and that is just the way it is.
When I would tediously explain that when we were married I took the last name of my husband and legally had all my documents show my new last name I was frequently met by retorts of disgust. Most people considered it rude on my behalf to denounce my ties to the people who had raised me and appalling that I would disown the heritage that tied me to centuries past. I was informed that I was ungrateful.
For my Bolivian born son to have dual citizenship he first had to have a Bolivian birth certificate and then he could register for one from the States. In the registrar office we had two options: a. my son has only one legal parent (me) thereby having a solitary last name or b. my son has two legal parents thus two last names. We chose the latter. My son’s Bolivian name is: Tyler Cole Washington Washington. I may be disdained for my singular last name but I am praised for having a son with a duplicitous last name, because that is just the way it is.
A famous Bolivian artist has created vibrant paintings reminiscent of the ancient times when earth and creation were worshiped. He captures the life of the nation with his marvelous images. His name is Mamani Mamani. His parents just so happened share a similar last name and they decided to don their son with the matching names. Sometimes children will have different last names to honor all sets of the families. So a girl could by Maria Eugenia Santos Saurez and her blood brother with the same parents could be David Miguel Flores Torres. The parents decide, and it is just the way it is.
(Image show is “Luz de Illimani” by: Mamani Mamani)