“El Tucho”, “La Original”, “Los Primos”, “La Guadalupana”…these are only some of the names you’ll find painted on the walls of convenience and hardware stores, food establishments, and boats, while roaming the streets and harbors of Yucatán. Each of them identifies a business, a corner, and sometimes an entire tradition.
To name something is to give identity and personality to a business or a brand. A name is as important as the product or service itself and creates a label, a seal, a first impression that will leave its mark forever. In Yucatán, in addition to giving an address, it’s common to give references about places, and many times there are names that are so unusual that I’m sure you’ll wonder where they come from and why, so keep reading to find out more.
In Yucatán there are many peculiar ways to name businesses. First you should know that you will find establishments’ names not only in Spanish but also in Maya (especially in Merida’s downtown and in the smaller towns); and in English (mainly new businesses): always in creative ways that will catch your eye and stay in your mind.
Migrations from Korea, China, France, Italy, and other countries have also generated a diversity in business names, a fact that reaffirms Mérida and Yucatán as multicultural centers, particularly attractive to visitors.
For religious devotion
As a way of giving thanks, making a promise, or religious beliefs, especially Catholic, it’s very common to come across names of saints in businesses and stores. Sometimes these are so named as protection, especially when it comes to ships and boats. Don José, a fisherman who has named his rustic boat “La Guadalupana,” entrusts himself to the Virgin of Guadalupe every time he goes out fishing.
With names and/or surnames
Commonly people use the owner’s name, their children’s, or their surname if this is a family business. Small establishments to big chains in Yucatán and México keep this tradition: “Los 4 Hermanos” (tamales), “Los Hermanos Suárez,” “Don Pepe,” “Chedraui”…the list is almost endless.
Here everything gets more interesting, because nicknames in Spanish or with Maya regionalisms generally refer to the original owner’s description or similarity or connection with some animal: “Puruxitos” (someone on the chubby side), “El Pich” (bird), “Boxito” (youngster), “El Rey de los Pastelitos” (king of pastries), among others. The humor and joy of Yucatecans is reflected in these names and it’s become a part of their identity.
Sometimes establishments with the same service open very close to each other and this also influences their names. The bar “La Gatita Blanca” (white cat) on Ave. Itzáes used to be across from another bar called “El Gatito Negro” (black cat). In some pueblos you can also find these types of names: “La Tía de Kaua ” vs. “La Verdadera Tía de Kaua” (Kaua’s Aunt vs. The Real Kaua’s Aunt).
Merida’s downtown corners deserve a special mention, each with their unique story and anecdote. Don’t hesitate to take pictures of the names that capture your eye and share them, to showcase the Yucatan of today.
Editorial by Violeta H. Cantarell
Photos by Juan Manuel Mier y Terán and Jonathan Alcocer for Yucatán Today’s use
Read more about traditions and habits:
- Learn how to “Speak Yucatecan”
- Cantina Tour in Mérida
- The Musical Sounds of Yucatán
- Traditional Sweets
- Street Vendors in Mérida