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 thought it time to cast my net a little wider. This time Benin and a look at some of its largest settlements and most interesting names and starting with the capital.
La Paz is, as any trivia buff will know, the world's highest capital city. Founded in 1548 by the Spanish Conquistadors as Nuestra Senora de La Paz, this meaning 'Our Lady of Peace', and built on the site of the earlier site of Laja.
Santa Cruz de la Sierra is by far the largest in terms of population. Another founded by the Spanish Conquistadors and named Santa Cruz de la Sierra or 'Holy Cross of the Hills' by Nuflo de Chaves in 1558.
Cochabamba, sometimes given as Quchapampa, gets its name from qucha 'lake' and pampa 'open plain'.
Oruro is named after the local tribe, the Uru-Uru.
Sucre was named to honour the victorious Don Antionio Jose de Sucre at the Battle of Ayacucho on 9 December 1824.
Tarija is traditionally held to be derived from one Francisco de Tarija, however it has been shown this name existed prior to the arrival of the Spanish and the name's origins remain a mystery.
Potosi is likewise uncertain and also has a traditional tale associated with its origins. The story tells of the year of 1462, when Huayna Capa, ruler of the Inca Empire, came to Potosi to view for himself the place where "Innumerable arrobas of silver had been taken" - arroba being a Spanish unit of weight approximating to some 25 pounds. He told his subjects how he had seen the hill was truly filled with veins of the precious metal and commanded them to remove every last piece. Yet just as they were about to remove the first of the ore the hill shook and a thunderous voice bellowed "Do not take the silver from this hill, it is destined for other masters." The workers returned to their king and told them of the 'noise' which, in their language, spoke of potocsi, later corrupted to potosi.
Trinidad should correctly be La Santisima Trinidad or 'the Most Holy Trinity'.
Yacuiba comes from the Guarani yaku-iba loosely translating as 'the watering hole of fowls'.
Colcapirhua comes from the Quechua words qolque 'money' and pirwua 'sky where corn is stored'.
Llallagua is the hispanicized version of Llallawa, an Aymara word meaning 'monstrous potato' and a reference to the double hill overshadowing the town.
Note the spellings of the places are English as the piece is written in English.