A few days ago we talked about Cuban refugee babies whose names were associated with the Mariel boatlift, but here’s an even earlier Cuban refugee baby name I haven’t written about yet: Barbara Benita.
She was born in a small open boat fleeing from Cuba in late April, 1964. Her father, a farmer named Andres Mejias, was quoted as saying: “I never dreamed of delivering a baby, especially at sea running from my country.”
The family was picked up by H.M.S Tartar about 13 miles south of Marathon, Florida.
The baby was named Barbara for the Cuban saint of thunder because it was rainy during the night, and Benita for the British naval officer on the Tartar who first spotted the refugee group. Mr. Mejias said he knew only that the officer’s first name was Ben.
In the Afro-Cuban religion of Santería, Saint Barbara was syncretized with Shango, the Yoruban god of thunder and lightning, fire, and war.
The name Margaux debuted in the U.S. baby name data in the mid-1970s:
1978: 33 baby girls named Margaux
1977: 44 baby girls named Margaux
1976: 35 baby girls named Margaux
1975: 18 baby girls named Margaux [debut]
Margaux Hemingway, granddaughter of Ernest Hemingway, who became famous as a fashion model in the mid-1970s. Notably, she was awarded the first-ever million-dollar modeling contract — from Fabergé. She was the spokesmodel for the company’s popular Babe perfume, launched in 1976.
Margaux was born “Margot,” but later changed the spelling of her name. According to her obituary in the New York Times, “[s]he was said to have changed her name from Margot when she learned that her parents drank Chateau Margaux on the night of her conception.”
Both “Margaux” and “Margot” can be traced back to the name Marguerite, the French form of Margaret (from the Ancient Greek word margarites, meaning “pearl”).
It’s interesting to note that the spelling of the French wine/winery/region has varied over time. One 17th-century map of Château Margaux, for instance, called it “Margaud.” And the wine has been labeled Margou, Margous, Margoo, Margoose, Margoux, etc.
Margaux Hemingway’s younger sister, actress Mariel Hemingway — named after the port town of Mariel in Cuba — starred in the 1979 Woody Allen film Manhattan and was likely the reason the name Mariel saw higher usage in 1980. (News about the Mariel boatlift that year may have been an influence as well, though.)
Which name would you be more likely to use for a baby girl, Margaux or Mariel?
What are some baby names that are rather uncommon, but easy to pronounce/spell that would fit with my first daughter’s name, Paulina Sophie? I work in a school so I have too many name associations to think straight! Thanks. (I am of Irish/French descent.)
My first question to Kathleen would be: Where did the name Paulina come from? If there’s some sort of significance behind the name, that’s what I’d focus on. If it’s the name of a grandmother, for instance, I would look to other grandparent names (or family names) for baby #2.
In terms of style alone, though, here are some female names that I think work well:
And some male names:
None of the above currently rank among the top 100 baby names in the U.S.
If you like the idea of anagrams but want to avoid sound-alike sets, I recommend anagrams with different numbers of syllables. Pairs like “Etta and Tate” and “Clay and Lacy” are a far more subtle than pairs like “Enzo and Zeno” and “Mary and Myra.”