My Many Last Names: Moraes, Morris, and Morias

Tales of ArjunaI have a Portuguese last name, so it isn’t surprising that I get a lot of junk mail from Brazil and generally from Portuguese and Spanish language sources. What is perhaps not as understandable is that I get a lot of junk mail from India. I don’t know why, but Moraes is apparently an Indian name. I first learned this in graduate school when I was introduced to the poet Dom Moraes. And then later I learned of his father who is aggravatingly named Frank Moraes. A Google search on that name brings me up as the second result. But even I must admit that the other Frank Moraes is far more deserving.

There is another aspect of this: my last name really shouldn’t be Moraes. That is one of those wonderful errors immigration and family history. It all started when my grandfather moved to the United States from the Azores. As immigration officials seemed to love doing, they changed his last name to Morris. This means that my given name was Frank Morris. You may know that name, because he was the mastermind behind the daring Alcatraz escape. But I don’t feel that bad about it, because Frank Morris doesn’t seem to have been a bad guy. He hadn’t done anything particularly bad to find himself on Alcatraz, and he was clearly a smart guy.

For some reason, when I was very young, my father got it into his head to change his (our) last name back to the original name. But he was apparently kind of confused on the name and had it changed to “Moraes.” It should have been “Morais.” How I wish it had been! For one thing, it looks cooler. But for another, the vast majority of people can’t see my last name without slipping an “l” into it and making it the hugely popular Spanish last name, “Morales.” But there is no “l.” Really, I would know.

But I don’t mind having my name linked to India. I have a fondness for the country. I have an addiction for the food. And I love the culture. I most especially like Hinduism. It isn’t the theology of it, because I must admit to not understanding that very well. But I love all it’s gods. Vishnu has four arms. I have to say, I would take Christianity a lot more seriously if it would show a little creativity like that. But no: the whole Judeo-Christian tradition is so wedded to humanity! It’s narcissistic.

So I got this junk mail for an Amar Chitra Katha subscription. This is apparently India’s biggest selling comic book series. And one of them was for “Tales of Arjuna.” It looked really cool! He is the protagonist of the Mahabharata. He’s always pictured with a bow and arrow. That’s him in the picture above. No extra arms. No blue skin. Of course, Arjuna is not a god. I’ll have to read about him some day when I have the time.

Another thing I’d like to do when I have the time is to change my last name to Morais. It isn’t just that I like the name. I like the idea of doing it just because it messes up the whole process of record keeping. But if governmental officials are going to change cool names like Morais into insipid ones like Morris, then the whole process deserves to be messed with.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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