Sunday, 17 May 2015

Argentina's Place Names Explained

Having blogged samples of my books on English place names and also examined the etymologies of the nations of the world and their respective capitals, I began casting my net a little wider. This time the country is Argentina and some of its largest towns and cities and beginning with the largest.

Buenos Aires was originally named Santa Maria de los Buenos Aires by Spanish sailors upon their arrival in the River de la Plata. This was to thank 'the Holy Virgin Mary of the Good Winds' for bringing them safely across, what must then have seemed, a most formidable journey across the Atlantic Ocean. When the city was first founded it was known as Holy Mary of the Fair Winds, but this settlement had been abandoned by 1541. In 1580 the present settlement Ciudad de la Santisima Trinidad y Puerto de Santa Maria del Buen Aire or 'City of the Most Holy Trinity and Port of Saint Mary of the Fair Winds' had been named. Its current shortened form had become the norm by the end of the seventeenth century.

Cordoba was founded by the Spaniard Jeronimo Luis de Cabrera in June 1573. The name was probably coined by him to honour the home of his wife, Cordoba in Spain, itself named by the Carthaginian general Hamilcar Barca as Kartuba or 'City of Juba' after a Numidian commander killed in the battle for the region.

Rosario was officially declared a city as recently as August 3rd 1852, at the time known as Pago de los Arroyos or 'land of the streams' and there are a number of small rivers crossing the landscape here. However Rosario had been the name of the settlement since its earliest record from October 1793, when it was said to already have 457 inhabitants. Rosario translates as 'rosary'.

Mendoza was founded on March 2nd 1561 by Pedro del Castillo and named Ciudad de Mendoza del Nuevo Valle de La Rioja after the then governor of Chile, Don Garcia Hurtado de Mendoza.

La Plata has been designed on a grid system revealed by its nickname of la ciudad de las diagonales 'City of Diagonals', although other sources refer to it as la ciudad de los tilos 'the city of linden trees' and there are a large number. The name comes from the river, the Rio de la Plata being 'the river of silver'.

Tucuman, in full San Miguel de Tucuman, is thought to come from the Quechua language and probably began as Yucuman or 'place of several rivers'. Alternatively this may represent Tucma or 'the end of things' and then a reference to the outer limits of the Inca Empire.

Mar del Plata shares an origin with La Plata, this being 'the sea of the River Plate region'.

Salta is nicknamed Salta la Linda or 'Salta the beautiful', the origin of the name of the Salta Valley in which it lies depends upon which language it came from. Perhaps it is an Indian tribe, or has the meaning 'craggy place', or possibly 'meeting of the outstanding', or even from the Aymara for 'very beautiful'.

Note the spellings of the places are English as the piece is written in English.

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