Surnames in Mexico

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Surnames in Mexico (in Spanish: apellidos)

By Ricardo Platt

In Mexico, legally and formally we all have two surnames (apellidos), the first being their father’s first surname, and the second their mother’s first surname. We also have one or more given names (nombres).

Legally, I am Ricardo Platt Garcia. I have a paternal surname (Platt) and a maternal surname (Garcia). I have just one given name (Ricardo).

So, the the surname of the children of Ricardo Platt García (my complete legal name) married to Luz Maria (my wife’s given names) Camou Woolfolk (her surnames), is Platt Camou. I have a son named Ricardo Platt Camou. In turn, my son has a son named Ricardo Platt Noriega (Noriega being his wife’s first surname).

As a quick reference the “formula” is as follows: Given Name(s) + Father’s First Surname + Mother’s First Surname (known as “maiden name” in the US).

For practical purposes it is often common in Mexico to use only the first surname (the father’s), so it is not uncommon that I am referred to as Ricardo Platt. But legally and officially I am Ricardo Platt Garcia.

This might be confusing to people from the USA where the surname (referred as the last name) is usually the father’s only surname. When they see a complete Mexican name (ie: Ricardo Platt Garcia) it is easy to erroneously assume the surname is the last surname (ie: Garcia).

However my surname is Platt or Platt Garcia, but certainly not Garcia (known in the USA as my mother’s maiden name). To avoid confusion in the US or internationally, I just use Ricardo Platt (or Ricardo G. Platt) as my name internationally.

The Mexican legal system (and in all Latin America, based upon the naming system in Spain) for using the first surname from the father over the second surname from the mother occasionally results in serious legal problems in English-speaking countries such as the United States, whose laws operate on the assumption (based upon English names) that each person has a first name, an optional middle name, and a last name, where the last name is normally inherited solely from the father and is assumed to be the only surname.


Ricardo Platt. 2018.

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