The roster of the Cuban national baseball team is weighted curiously toward the end of the alphabet. There are Yordanis, Yurisbel, Yunior, Yeniet and Yorbis: More than one-quarter of the 41 players considered for this spring’s historic game against the Tampa Bay Rays in Havana had first names starting with Y.
It reflects a national trend informally known as Generación Y, in which thousands of people born toward the end of the Cold War have uncommon first names that share that initial. Perhaps the best-known example: Yoenis Cespedes, the power-hitting outfielder for the New York Mets, who was born in Cuba in 1985.
The seeds for this unconventional nomenclature may have been planted by the Cuban revolution, which pulled parents away from biblical names. The influence of the Soviet Union, with its Yevgenis and Yuris, is also seen as a significant factor.
Experts differ on whether the pattern is a sign of tribute or rebellion. The dissolution of the Soviet Union was disastrous for Cuba, the start of the so-called Special Period, an extended economic crisis and recession in the early 1990s.
Lillian Guerra of the University of Florida sees Generación Y as part of a broader tradition of creative naming in Cuba, one she called a sign of cultural resistance. She pointed to unusual monikers like Milaidys, a phoneticization of “My lady” in Spanish; Dianisleysis, inspired by Princess Diana; and, get ready for this, Onedollar, Usnavy, Usmail, Usarmy and Usa, all inspired by Cubans’ increased contact with American travelers and culture during the 1990s.
“The names were deliberate,” Guerra said. “You don’t name your kid without thinking about it.”
There are signs that Cuban names have been returning to more conventional patterns in the past couple of decades, according to Guerra, who has written about Generación Y. Yoani Sánchez, a famous Cuban dissident…
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