When it comes to naming our kids, Latinas have been known to venture beyond the top 10 lists and draw on family history, religion, and their imaginations. This is especially true with baby girls, says MaryAnn Parada, a social linguist at the University of Illinois in Chicago, who specializes in Latino naming practices. "Sons are seen as the carriers of tradition," so their names tend to be more straightforward, Parada explains. Thankfully, parents make up for any lack of creativity by having a little more fun with girl names. Here, nine Latina moms explain their unconventional monikers, and how they influenced their own kids' names.
"My uncle named me. I have no idea where he got Noslaydis. Most of the girls at my school in Cuba had names that started with 'Y' or included a 'Y'—it was a big trend! I got my middle name when I was seven. My dad made a promise to San Lazaro that he would name me after him if I got over my asthma. I didn't like either name. No one pronounces Noslaydis right. When I became an American citizen, I considered changing it to Megan. But it was too big a hassle."
"There was a Sabado Gigante-style TV show in Venezuela that had a child beauty pageant segment, and my mom liked the name of one of the contestants. When I found out that there was a makeup line with the same name, I thought it was made just for me! I had health problems as a newborn, so my mom added Milagros."
"Back in the Dominican Republic, my dad apprenticed with a Spanish artist and I was named after his daughter. 'Del Camino' is a reference to the Christian pilgrimage route in Spain [which leads to the Cathedral of Santiago de la Compostela]. I nicknamed myself Mino as a kid. I jumbled my name and that's what came out. But I love Maria del Camino; it's poetic. When I came to the U.S. to study, it became a source of pride."
My daughter's name: "Emma Lucia. Like me, she gave herself a nickname: EmmaLu."
"A lot of people think my name has to do with Brown Pride [a Latino movement from the 60s], because it's an Aztec name, but really, it's not unusual in Mexico. Growing up, I didn't like it because it was so different: It starts with an 'X' and ends with a 'tl' and pronounced SO-chee. People butchered it. But when I found out it means 'flower,' I fell in love with it. It's part of my heritage and I love that."
My daughter's name: "Eztli. When I found out my name's meaning, I got into Aztec baby names. I wanted a pretty name for my daughter and anyone can pronounce this one—although it means blood!"
"My mom saw the name in an English-language magazine and loved it, though she couldn't read in English and didn't know what it meant. Much later someone asked me if I knew I was named for a tragedy [Mayerling is the place where Crown Prince Rudolph of Austria and his mistress killed themselves in 1889; his death contributed to events leading up to World War I]. I was shocked. But I'm okay with it because it's very different. And I've never told my mom; I don't want her to feel bad. I love Altagracia because she's one of the patron saints of the Dominican Republic. I pray to her and it makes me feel holy."
My kids' names: Alyssa, after my favorite actress, Alyssa Milano, and Jose, after my husband.
"I'm named after my Puerto Rican grandmother on my mom's side, Margarita, who died when my mom was two months pregnant with me. My aunt discovered a French translation with a 't' at the end and suggested we change it up a little. It's pronounced Marjo-REET. I love it. It makes me stand out from the crowd. Toro is my mom's maiden name. She's a proud Boricua from the Bronx, New York, and she wanted her side to be represented."
My sons' names: "Devin Benito. My fiancé's name is Vincent and we kept the 'vin'; Benito is my brother-in-law. Tristan Carter was named after the old Tristan and Isolde tale. Carter is for Jay-Z's last name. My fiancé is a big fan!"
"My mom was sitting in church hearing a sermon that included the story of a woman who waited for her fiancé to come back from a war. She loved that idea of faithfulness. I've always loved my name. It's simple and I've never met anyone else with it."
My daughter's name: Amanda. It's simple, like mine.
"Zobeida was my grandmother's name. She died in the Dominican Republic before I was born. When my mom had me, she wanted to honor her but still give me a name of my own, so she came up with Veida. Everyone I've ever talked to about my grandmother has said she was a very nice lady, so I'm very happy to have it. My step-grandmother gave me a middle name that she found in a newspaper article."
My son's name: "Zameer Johani. I knew I wanted a Z name, for my grandmother. And in Arabic, his name means heart. Johani is for me, I just made it more masculine."
"My parents wanted to name me after themselves, Jaime and Fermina, and they squeezed them together to create Jaimina. You're supposed to say it Hi-MEE-na, like in Spanish, but I've been called everything from Jay-mina to Aunt Jemima, and people always spell it wrong. I couldn't deal. I ended up just calling myself Jaime, pronounced in English. The only time I use Jaimina is when I'm talking to other Mexicans since Jaime is a man's name in Spanish. Kinda confusing but it works."
My daughter's name: "Sofia. It's pretty, popular, and classic."