Top baby names: Spanish parents depart from tradition

Spaniards are getting more and more creative with their baby names, opting more for Games of Thrones than Biblical, according to a new report.

Top baby names: Spanish parents depart from tradition
A 'baby-jumping' festival near Burgos, Spain. Photo: Cesar Manso/AFP.

Daniel and Lucía have in recent years become the most popular baby names for boys and girls in Spain, according to the latest data from the National Institute of Statistics (INE) on Thursday.

The report showed the top baby names in Spain for each decade, dating back to before the 1930s.

For most of the past 80 years, Maria for girls and Jose or Antonio for boys had been the top go-to names for babies in Spain.

But this decade has seen a shift in the way Spanish parents name their newborns, opting for a break in tradition. Between 2010 and 2014, Daniel and Lucia have been the top baby names chosen instead.

We took a look at some of the top names – and most original ones – that have become in vogue this decade.

1. Daniel & Lucía

Photo: Toshifumi Kitamura/AFP.

This is the first time that Daniel has risen to the top for boys names.

And Lucia becoming a top pick is the first time since the 1980s when the standard of Maria or Maria Carmen has been beat out for number one – and only the second time since before the 1930s where Maria hasn’t been above the rest.

2. Hugo & Maria

Photo: Pedro Armestre/AFP.

Though it lost its top spot, Maria still came in at number two for girls so far this decade, meaning Spaniards haven’t completely lost their love for the name, which is the Spanish version of Mary.

But Hugo has made a huge jump in its popularity, now at second place when in the 2000s it was only at twelfth place. Before that, the Germanic name was never even in the top 50.

3. Paula & Alejandro

Photo: Desiree Martin/AFP.

While Alejandro might seem like a natural Spanish name to hold a top spot, it actually didn’t make it into the top ten until the 1990s, holding onto first place through 2009. Has Lady Gaga’s song helped it maintain its popularity?

Paula also sounds quite traditional, but was never in the top 50 even until the 1980s when it took 48th place and then shot up into the top ten the following decade, where it has remained since.

And the more unusual names…

Some of the less traditional names to make top spots were Iker at number 14, which is a Basque name, and Izan at number 23 – neither of these names had made it into the top 50 before the turn of the 21st century.

For female names, the Latin-origin Valeria at number 12 was never a common pick before this decade.

And Noa – more commonly a boy’s name – first appeared as the 49th most popular name in the 2000s, but has jumped all the way to 16th place in recent years.

Perhaps the most eyebrow-raising names – though less common – include those inspired by football. There are about 100 little boys born since 2010 with the first name of Neymar, like the Brazilian-born Barcelona football star.

Another 22 boys born since 2000 are named Zidane after the Real Madrid manager, Zinedine Zidane.

Pop culture has also apparently had an impact on the Spanish baby-naming process as more than 120 baby girls born since 2010 are named Arya and 22 were named Daenerys – obvious tributes to the beloved Game of Thrones series.

Sociologist Roberto Barbeito told news daily 20 Minutos that Biblical names, often imposed during baptism by the Church, have lost some popularity because Catholicism plays less of a role now in Spaniard’s lives.

“Names are not free choices, their selection is deeply influenced by the social context,” Barbeito said.

“Names are used as references for the way of life, it’s like saying to your progeny that you want them to share the same qualities that distinguish the person from whom you took the name.”

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Following the Dalí trail around Spain’s Costa Brava

Catalonia-based travel writer Esme Fox embarks on a voyage into the mind of Salvador Dalí, visiting various locations and landmarks that the Spanish surrealist created or made his own around Spain's Costa Brava.

Following the Dalí trail around Spain's Costa Brava

Surrealist painter Salvador Dalí is perhaps one of Spain’s most famous and loved 20th-century artists. He is known for his quirky images of melting clocks, elephants with long spindly legs and the portraits of his wife, Gala.

Dalí was born in the town of Figueres in 1904, which is located in northern Catalonia, approximately 50km north of the city of Girona. This is the best place to begin your Dalí tour of the region.

Figueres Day 1  

Arriving in Figueres your first stop should be the Salvador Dalí Theatre-Museum, this is where some of the artist’s most important works are held. The museum was in fact created by Dalí himself when he was still alive and was inaugurated in 1974. It’s housed in an old theatre, hence the name. Everything in it was designed by Dalí to offer visitors a real experience and draw them into his world.

It’s eye-catching even from the outside – pink in colour and studded with yellow plaster croissants, and on the walls sit golden statues and his iconic large white eggs – a symbol which you’ll see repeated on your journey.

Salvador Dalí Theatre Museum in Figueres. Photo: Julia Casado / Pixabay

The museum is filled with 1,500 pieces including his sketches, paintings and sculptures. It also houses the remains of Dalí himself, down in the crypt, where you can pay your respects to the artist.

Next door to the museum is a permanent exhibition dedicated to the exquisite jewellery Dalí designed, which shouldn’t be missed. 

Afterward, you can go and see the house where Dalí was born at number 6 on Carrer Monturiol. It’s not currently an attraction, however there are renovation works underway to turn it into a new museum about the artist’s childhood. It was due to open in 2020, but there were significant delays because of the pandemic and it is still nowhere near finished.

Spend the night at the Hotel Duran, where Salvador Dalí and his wife Gala in fact lived while they were renovating the theatre. The hotel restaurant even has a special Dalí room, filled with images of Dalí and all his friends, as well as objects belonging to the artist.

Cadaqués Days 2 and 3

After a winding and hairpin turn journey west, you’ll find yourself at one of the eastern-most points in Spain – the town of Cadaqués. One of the most attractive towns on the Costa Brava, its white-washed buildings gleam against the cerulean blue bay and pink bougainvillea decorates its tiny interior cobbled streets.

In summer in particular, this place gets very busy, so make sure you’ve booked well in advance for your accommodation.

Dalí loved this area in summer too and built his summer house in the tiny neighbouring village of Portlligat. The house is now a museum, but as it’s quite small, booking tickets several weeks or even months ahead of time is essential.

Dalí’s house in Portlligat. Photo: Esme Fox

Dalí designed the house himself, which was created from several fisherman’s cottages joined together and is topped with his iconic white eggs.

Inside, you’ll see the artist’s studio, where many of his most famous works were created, including two unfinished pieces which still sit on the easels. You can also see Dalí and Gala’s bedroom where they kept canaries to wake them up in the morning and crickets to send them off to sleep at night. There’s also an angled mirror ready to catch the sun, ensuring that Dalí was one of the first people in the whole of Spain to see the sunrise each morning.

The highlight of the visit however is the vast garden, which even features a replica of the lion fountain in Granada’s Alhambra palace as well as his famous sofa in the shape of a pair of pink lips. The views from the top part of his garden above the olive grove are so stunning that it’s no wonder Dalí was inspired by the landscapes here.

There’s a replica of Alhambra’s lion fountain in Dalí’s garden. Photo: Esme Fox

On your second day in Cadaqués, head north to Paratge de Tudela located in the Cap de Creus Natural Park. You’ll need a car or taxi to get here. Here, you can hike among the very same landscape that Dalí painted in some of his most celebrated works. Look carefully or take a tour to see the same rock formations featured in his paintings.

For dinner, book a table at El Barroco, a traditional Lebanese restaurant and one of Dalí’s favourites when he lived there. He ate there at least twice a week in summer and it’s said that whenever he had famous guests he would meet them there instead of inviting them into his home. Dalí’s face adorns the door and inside it’s just as surreal with colourful plants, quirky statues and mirrors hanging in the courtyard. And inside it’s like a museum itself, filled with glass cases of bizarre objects and old musical instruments. There are even some photos of Dalí and Gala.

Book a table at El Barroco in Cadaqués. Photo: Esme Fox

Day 4

Make your way 60km south of Cadaques to the tiny charming villages of inland Costa Brava and specifically the village of Púbol. It’s here that Dalí bought an old castle in 1969 and renovated it from 1982 to 1984 for his wife Gala to live in.

Although the castle dates back to the 12th century, Dalí modernised it and added his creative and whimsical touches. It was a kind of love letter to his wife.

Dalí said of the castle: “Everything celebrates the cult of Gala, even the round room, with its perfect echo that crowns the building as a whole and which is like a dome of this Galactic cathedral… I needed to offer Gala a case more solemnly worthy of our love. That is why I gave her a mansion built on the remains of a 12th-century castle: the old castle of Púbol in La Bisbal, where she would reign like an absolute sovereign, right up to the point that I could visit her only by hand-written invitation from her. I limited myself to the pleasure of decorating her ceilings so that when she raised her eyes, she would always find me in her sky”.

Visit Gala’s castle in Púbol. Photo: Enric / WikiCommons

When Gala died in 1982, the castle became her mausoleum and she is still buried there today.

The castle is now a museum where you can tour each of the grand rooms, serene gardens, as well as spot Dalí’s whacky touches. Gala for example asked Dalí to cover up the radiators because she didn’t like to look at them, so as a joke, Dalí covered them with paintings of yet more radiators. 

Day four completes your Dalí trail around the Costa Brava. Go ahead and immerse yourself in the whimsical world of Dalí.