Costa Rica positions itself at the forefront of progress and gender equality with an innovative legislative reform: from now on, every person over the age of 18 can choose the order of their surnames. This historic advance breaks the chains of a centuries-old tradition, which systematically favored the father’s surname.
This legal change, which seems to be a simple matter of nomenclature, actually represents a giant step towards gender equality. In Costa Rica, where it is common to have two surnames (the father’s followed by the mother’s), this reform offers individuals unprecedented freedom to define their own identity.
The change stems from a reinterpretation of Article 49 of the Civil Code. Previously, this article imposed a strict order: the father’s name had to precede the mother’s. By removing this constraint, the Costa Rican legislation embraces a future where equality and personal choice prevail.
‘This reform, allowing us to choose the order of our family names, goes beyond a simple administrative change; it symbolizes a break with a tradition that, in a subtle but powerful way, placed women in a second-tier position. The name is an integral part of our identity, and this law finally recognizes that women must have the right to determine how they want to be identified and represented.’– Alejandra Corrales, Heredia Costa Rica
The Constitutional Chamber, recognizing that the old practice was in contradiction with the principles of equality and non-discrimination, has paved the way for this evolution. This decision is based on the idea that the order of surnames should not be dictated by outdated patriarchal norms, but rather be a personal choice reflecting individual identity.
The reform is celebrated as a victory for women’s rights, but it benefits everyone by affirming the right to the free development of personality. That said, some limitations remain: same-sex couples, minors, and people who only carry their mother’s surname still have to follow specific procedures for any change.
This progressive reform illustrates how Costa Rica continues to be a beacon of progress in Central America, affirming the importance of gender equality and respect for individual identity in modern society. »
Regarding the most common surnames in Costa Rica, they are similar to those in other Spanish-speaking countries. Among the most widespread surnames are:
These names reflect a variety of influences, including Spanish and indigenous, and are common throughout Latin America.
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