Do you remember as a little girl, laughing and dreaming with your friends about what your name would sound like if you married your friend Bobby? Or what about marrying that cute boy in Math class? As girls we would giggle and cringe at some names we hope we didn’t end up with and practise writing our signatures with ones we’d wish to acquire. But, never did it come up, the idea of not taking our husband-to-be’s name.
Then times changed. It became more common to keep your maiden name. Or hyphenate your name with your spouses. Or better yet, create a totally new name. But as times changed around me, I remained rooted in tradition. But traditions are different in other cultures and I soon found out how marrying a Mexican took me on a new name adventure.
For those that don’t know, in latin culture, people have two last names. The first last name is their father’s patriarchal last name. The second last name is their mother’s patriarchal last name. So, for my husband, Armando Elias Guerra, ELIAS is from his father and GUERRA is from his mother. His legal name is Armando ELIAS GUERRA but he goes by Armando ELIAS because Latinos will usually just use their father’s name in society.
Now, put him in Canada where this tradition is not practised. It’s a nightmare. Credit cards and ID are printed with the last name Guerra, sometimes Elias and other times Elias Guerra. Trying to explain that both last names are his last names can be challenging for others to understand who haven’t been exposed to this before.
Because he only uses ELIAS as his last name on an everyday basis, and I am Canadian and generally would only have one last name, it was natural for me to decide to choose ELIAS as my last name when I went to change my driver’s license after getting married. If only it were that simple.
The federal government acknowledges this cultural difference, heck, they even allow alias names to be on passports if they are established names in the community with proper documentation. But for some reason, the BC government does not acknowledge this difference and advised me that I can only have my last name as ELIAS GUERRA or GUERRA on my driver’s license. I can’t be GUERRA because Armando has never used just that name as a last name. The federal government acknowledges how it’s the first last name that is generally used, in this case ELIAS, so you think the BC government would do the same. But they don’t. Other provinces apparently do, but not BC.
The only way the BC government would allow me to have the last name ELIAS is if I got a legal name change. Which in turn, would give me a new birth certificate showing my last name as ELIAS. Crazy, eh?! I would have a birth certificate showing that I was born with the last name of ELIAS. I just find that wrong. I was born with the last name BACHEWICH so even if I am willing to give it up to take on a married name, I am not prepared to lose it completely. *sigh*
So in the end, I am now Tamara Elias Guerra. I look at it this way…it’s not the name I thought I’d get nor did my friends and I ever practise having two last names, but it’s kinda cool that I will get to experience the trials and tribulations of having two last names, neither that I was born with. It’s going to be a new adventure! Besides, the excitement I saw in my husband’s eyes when I showed him my driver’s license with my new married name was worth all the confusion that lies ahead with having two last names in a one name society.