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Guest blogger Leslie E. Owen introduces us to the distinctive  Catalan culture: its history, geography–and especially its unique international names.

What do Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Christopher Columbus, and the tenor José Carreras have in common? 

They are all Catalan, an ethnic group whose origins in Mediterranean Spain and France have roots in the merging of the indigenous Celts of the Iberian peninsula with the Romans.  Catalan is a Romance language that existed before Spanish, and derived from Vulgate Latin and Occidental.  The Catalan culture began around the ninth century CE, and was in its heyday between the eleventh and the fifteenth centuries.  At one point, the Catalans, who were sailors, merchants, and explorers, had expanded their territory from the Mediterranean coast of Spain and France through the Balearic Islands, Sardinia, Sicily, Naples, and Greece.

Currently, there are six to eight million speakers of Catalan.  Catalunya is the largest semi-autonomous region in Spain, and includes the provinces of Barcelona, Lleida, Tarragona, and Girona, as well as parts of Valencia, the Balearic Islands, and the region of France that borders the Pyrenées and the Mediterranean.  During the Franco years, Catalan culture, music, language, and freedoms were brutally suppressed.  Since the constitutional monarchy of Juan Carlos, Catalunya has restored its language and traditional culture. 

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photo by Sara Atkins

Latin culture is influencing everything in the United States, including baby names.  With the growing prominence of Latin stars and parents of all ethnic backgrounds more interested in using culturally significant names, Hispanic choices are moving up the popularity lists.

Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony, Jessica Alba and Ricky Martin may be among the most famous Latin celebrities, but their names were inspired by the general culture and are hardly inspiring modern baby namers in search of an authentic Latin choice.  The Latin celebrities (and a few fictional characters) from the worlds of film, music, sports, and fashion whose names have proven influential in the U.S. include:

Female

AMERICA FERRARA

CAROLINA HERRERA

DAISY FUENTES

DORA the Explorer

EVA MENDES

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