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LATIN AMERICA: First names



The debate about the name of Vlademire Lenin Montesidnos of Peru has brught up the whole business of first names in Latin America. Firstly, Alejandro Winograd argues that the name "Camilo" honors not the Colombian Torres but the Cuban Cienfuegos:

"Naming criteria may differ from one culture to another. But I would assume that, in most cases, the name Camilo has been chosen after Camilo Cienfuegos (not Camilo Torres). Camilo Cienfuegos was one of the most important leaders of the Cuban revolution.He was with the Castro brothers and Guevara in the attackon Moncada and remained with them until his death. I think he was the one who took the Presidential Palace and, at certain point, he became as popular as Guevara and Fidel. He died in 1959 and, in Cuba, he is considered as important a igure as el Che. When I was a child it was said that Camilo and el Che were the best friends and, after Guevara's death, they formed a sort of mythologic couple (like Castor and Pollux). Camilo was the only one of the most important leaders who was not a communist . He had grown up in an anarchist family and he was an anarchist himself. Sometime in 1959, his plane disappeared over the sea. You may find both the CIA conspiracy and the communist purge theories. In the 60's and early '70's he was quite an icon (not as popular as Guevara but, definitely, much more important than Camilo Torres).

I may mention a few more cases. In the northwest of Ecuador (among the black communities of the Onzole river) I met a Socrates, a Teofilo and a Teofilato. I had also friends from Quito named Galo Vinicio, Marco Tulio Genaro and Augusto. And, in the other extreme of the continent, in Patagonia, there was a very well known country man called Saladino (his hands were supposed to be faster than your eyes). Anyway, Scott Palmer clarified that, at least in the case of Mr. Montesino's parents, there was more than the sound of a name".

Anthony Fernandes comments: "If one looks at the long Latin American history of non-Hispanics in eadership roles --from Bernardo O'Higgins in Chile and A. Stroessner in Paraguay, to Hugo Banzer in Bolivia, to Fujimori in Peru, to Menem and the new Argentine finance minister Murphy [already ousted and replaced by Cavallo, presumably an Italian name--RH]--one will find a number of people of Slavic descent, among the Italians, Germans, irish, Lebanese, etc..Our stereotype of a pan-Latin catholic bloc notwithstanding, many South and Central American countries have welcomed immigrants and have multicultural societies. We generally recognize this about Brazil but don't think it true of the Spanish-speaking countries. Yet it is. In that context, I never found anyone named Vladimiro at all odd."

My comment: I had never heard of the Onzole river, but it exists, classified as a stream. When I went through the area I noticed the Negro population. A slave ship was shipwrecked off the coast of Ecuador, and the blacks escaped into the mountains. In the niunweteenth century, the policy was twofold: To encourage immigration ("gobernar es poblar") and the whiten the population (to offset the blacks).

Ronald Hilton - 4/3/01


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