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The history of the Ramirez de Arellano Clan 

The use of surnames was traditionally used to classify into groups by profession or livelihood, habitation or place, patronage, affiliation and even physical attributes among others.  With the dominance of European colonizers in the earlier centuries, many surnames especially in colonized places like Latin America can be traced back to former European superpowers like Spain, France and England. Ramirez de Arellano is one such family name in Puerto Rico that has a rich historical heritage that can be traced back to European origins.



The family name “Ramirez de Arellano” stemmed from the Germanic term “Ranamers”. Based on this, the term has originated from the Indo-European Germanic tribes particularly the Visigoths in Northern Europe. Ranamers is the term that Visigoths to refer to warriors in their ranks who have the uncommon valour and forte of wedging or slicing through enemy ranks sacrificing his life to penetrate and break enemy lines to achieve victory.  Ranamers is coined from the words “rana” meaning wedge and “mers” meaning, distinguished or famous. Thus, it arguably serves as a representation of a fearsome warrior who attacks enemies frantically to destroy enemy lines, for which they gain repute honorable status. Ranamers on the other hand was translated to Ranimiro, which is Spanish in origin when the Germanic tribes came in contact with Spanish kingdoms in history.


Noble Ancestry

The Ramirez de Arellano takes pride to be descendants of the earliest noble aristocratic families that ruled the kingdoms of Spain in the past. The chief documented person to have been born with the name “Ranimiro” is the first and foremost king of Aragon.  The erstwhile king who referred to himself as Ranimiro Sancioni Regis filio was called Ramiro, for short by his constituents. Thus, Ramiro is a contraction of Ranimiro.

Ranimiro was called Ramiro to describe his affiliation to Sancho III of Pamplona, who was his father. In the same token, the evolution of the Ramiro to Ramirez came about to denote a name from one’s paternal ancestor. Ramirez was then use to refer to the “son of Ramiro”.  And as such, the eldest son of Ranimiro or Ramiro, who succeeded him to the throne of Aragon, was named Sancho Ramírez (i.e. the son of Ramiro who is the son of Sancho). Considered as the great grandfather of the Ramirez Arellano clan, Don Sancho Ramirez was also selected as the king of Pamplona by the Navarrese noblemen. Don Sancho also named his son as Ramiro Sánchez de Pamplona who is the direct ascendants of Don Sancho Ramírez and Don García Ramírez de Pamplona, King of Navarre.  The following years that cause intermarriages with other noble families would later result to the Ramirez de Arellano compound surname.



First documented use of the Ramírez de Arellano

The compound family name of Ramírez de Arellano was first cited as a descendant of Ramiro Sánchez (son of Don Sancho Ramirez) and Cristina Diaz de Vivar, daughter of Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar who was famously called El Cid Campeador). The union of this two resulted to two sons who were later known as King Garcia Ramirez, “The Restorer”, and Prince Sancho Ramirez, Lord of Peña Cerrada. Prince Ramirez married Elvira Gómez, a daughter of a count.  The gave birth to a son whom they called Sancho Sánchez. Sancho Sanchez became the first lord of Villa de Arellano, a small town municipality located in Navarre. And for this, he took the name Ramirez de Arellano which means literally means Ramirez of Arellano.

What could have been alternative names?

Following the methodology on how surnames are combined or constituted, the surname Ramirez de Arellano should have been Sanchez Ramirez to follow the patrilineal tradition of creating names or Gomez Ramirez following the modern tradition of combing the surnames of both the mother and father. Note however, that Ramirez de Arellano was not a family name.  It was a name to denote the genealogy of the person as well as the town where he lived and ruled. Sancho Sanchez adopted the name of Ramirez de Arellano to highlight his ancestry lineage to Ramiro, the kings that ruled Aragon, Navarre and Pamplona. Then he attached de Arellano to identify the town or municipality that he took headship, Villa de Arellano (Village of Arellano).


The first to use Ramirez de Arellano as surname

Ramirez de Arellano was originally a name or moniker that referred to Sancho Sanchez, lord of Villa de Arellano and son of Prince Sancho Ramirez, grandson of the king of Pamplona and Aragon and Elvira Gómez, daughter of the Count of Gómez González Salvadores and Urraca Díaz from the house of Ansúrez. The first to use Ramírez de Arellano as surname was Sancho Ramírez de Arellano. He was the great-great-grandson of the Prince Sancho Ramírez.  Sancho Ramírez de Arellano was of Lord of Solana sometime in the 14th century.

From Spain to Puerto Rico

Spain to PR

From Navarre, Spain, the surname Ramírez de Arellano started to appear in Santo Domingo where they gradually scattered and relocated from the 17th century until the 18th century in the western portions of Puerto Rico. However, there is no clear and definite account of who, what, where and when did the Spanish Ramírez de Arellano families or blood line went to Puerto Rico.  However, the Spanish settlement in Puerto Rico actually started in as early as the 1500s briefly after the creation of the first Spanish state in 1493.

By virtue of connecting the dots so to speak, the first Ramírez de Arellano families from Spain may have reach Puerto Rico in the first wave of Spanish migration in Puerto Rico sometime between the beginning the 17th century until the end of the century during the colonial period.  During this time, it was the Castilians who reigned over Spain both politically and religiously speaking. Navarra and Pamplona which was the place originally ruled by the Ramirez de Arellano clan so speak was annexed by Castile in the 16th century. Thus, the chances of having Ramirez de Arellano noble people as part of the expeditions and migration to Puerto Rico is not far-fetched.


Don Nicolás Alfonso Ramírez de Arellano y Martínez de Matos

According to Fray Iñigo Abbad y Lasierra, a Benedictine monk and the earliest historian to comprehensively record the history of Puerto Rico as a Spanish colony, it was Don Nicolás Alfonso Ramírez de Arellano y Martínez de Matos is the founder of Cabo Rojo. This coastal village which has been occupied by Puerto Rican natives since 30 BC, was one of the first regions where Spanish settlements were built.  In particular, Spanish colonizers established a small commune in the area of Los Morrillos sometime in 1511. However, the town of Cabo Rojo was only formally established December 17, 1771 with the approval of Governor and Captain General Miguel de Muesas through auspices of Don Nicolás, who is now regarded as the founding father of Cabo Rojo. There is little to no account about Don Nicolás. However, his name that bears the surname of “Ramírez de Arellano”, revealed that he is a descendant of Spanish royalty and nobility that dates back to the time of king Ranimiro of Aragon. Today, the official blazon of Cabo Rajo still reflects the coat of arms Don Nicolás Ramírez de Arellano in his honour.


Roberto Cofresí


One of the most eminent early figures that connect the Spanish family surname Ramirez de Arellano with Puerto Rico comes from an infamous pirate known as El Pirata Cofresí. Born as Roberto Cofresí y Ramírez de Arellano in June 17, 1791, Roberto is a famous pirate from Puerto Rico whose career as a pirate made waves across the world from Spain, the United Kingdom, Denmark, France, up to the United States.

His name that attaches the surname Ramírez de Arellano signified his maternal family name, which was based on Spanish naming customs. This means that his mother may have been a descendant of the Ramírez de Arellano from Spain.  Cofresí’s birthdate is also congruent with the first wave of Spanish immigration in Puerto Rico. Moreover, the famous pirate also hails from Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico, which is where the Ramírez de Arellano family in Puerto Rico was known to have originated. In memory of his exploits, a monument of Roberto Cofresí stands in Boquerón Bay, which is also in Cabo Rojo.


Cabo Rojo and Ramírez de Arellano


Jerjes Medina Albino [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Cabo Rojo, which literally means Red Cape, is a town located on the southwest coast of Puerto Rico and is a part of the San Germán–Cabo Rojo metropolitan area,  fourth largest metropolitan area in Puerto Rico as defined by the a United States Census Bureau. The name of the town was derived from the ruddy shade of its salt-flats and the roseate shades that typified the littoral precipices of its coast. Legend has it that it was Christopher Columbus himself who baptized its name.

‘Quite interestingly, Cabo Rojo’s founding father Don Nicolás Alfonso Ramírez de Arellano whose name originated from the fierce Germanic warriors of the Visgoths to the noble aristocrats that dominated Spain, has comparable qualities with the natives of the area which constitutes Cabo Rojo today.  According to legends, its original inhabitants particularly from El Combate barrio were known as “mata con hacha” which literally means “those who kill with axes”. Cabo Rojo natives were also ferocious warriors who fought bravely to defend their village. Thus, the attributes of intensity, courage and nobility have since been inherent qualities of the Ramírez de Arellano clan.













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