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The territories baptized by Columbus and who have kept their names to this day

by Ace Damon

On August 3, 1492, with the endorsement of the Catholic kings of Spain, Italian explorer Christopher Columbus set sail from the port of Palos de Moguer in the southern Iberian Peninsula to the Indies.

He and his crew sailed across the Atlantic Ocean on the Santa Maria, Pinta and Niña vessels for about 70 days until, on the night of October 11 and 12, they came across an island they believed to be their final destination.

"They came to an islet… Called in the language of the Guanahani Indians," says Christopher Columbus's book "The Four Travels and the Testament," which compiles the explorer's diary entries.

Then this island, inhabited by indigenous Taínos, was called by Columbus from San Salvador.

It is known that the town was part of the Antilles archipelago. There is currently a debate among historians about whether this island would be San Salvador (Watling) in the Bahamas.

But San Salvador was just the first in a series of names by which Columbus named the land, rivers, capes, peninsulas, and ports in the new territory.

And many of them are documented in their travel diaries.

But what are they?

Hard work

Getting a map and plotting the route Columbus took is not an easy task.

Even more complex is trying to combine the hundreds of territories and landforms that Columbus baptized and still retain his baptismal name.

Historians consulted by BBC News Mundo, the BBC's Spanish news service, say it's a job no one else has done.

"Finding the names he gave is not too complicated, but knowing if they are still in use is more difficult," Portuguese-American historian Manuel Rosa tells BBC News Mundo.

Check below, in alphabetical order, the list of countries on the American continent that were baptized by Columbus over 500 years ago.

1. Antigua and Barbuda

This small nation is made up of Antigua and Barbuda, which are the two largest and most important islands in the archipelago, as well as islets, including the uninhabited Redonda.

Antigua was visited by Christopher Columbus in 1493 during his second trip to the "New World."

He named it after the church of Santa María de la Antigua in Seville, Spain, according to the "Concise Dictionary of Names of World Places" by British publisher Oxford.

Then, in 1632, Antigua was colonized by the English, and so did Barbuda in 1678. The latter became dependent on Antigua in the 18th century.

For the next two centuries, the islands remained under British rule until, in 1981, Antigua and Barbuda declared their independence.

2. Costa Rica

Christopher Columbus named this country in 1502 during his fourth voyage.

"Possibly because of the (wrong) belief that he would find gold there, as natives wore ornaments of this precious metal. What he did not know was that gold was imported," says the Oxford book.

However, the coast was rich in wood, fruit and water.

The name Costa Rica was made official in 1539 and the following year, although there were no Spanish settlements there until 1561, it began to form part of the viceroyalty of New Spain.

In 1568, the region was absorbed by the new reign of Guatemala, until it declared independence in 1821 and joined the Mexican Empire.

Two years later, he was one of the founding members of the United Provinces of Central America.

Costa Rica has been an independent republic since 1848. Interestingly, its currency is called colón (colombo in Spanish).

3. Cuba

The name of Cuba is a very special case among all the names given by Christopher Columbus.

And it is perhaps one of the ones he mentions most in his travel diaries. It appears about 19 times during the first trip, according to the book "The Four Trips and the Testament."

"What happened to the name Cuba is funny because he calls her Juana and the natives call her 'Colba' and the next time he mentions the island he goes on to call her Cuba." explains Rosa, author of several books on the life of Christopher Columbus.

On October 23, 1492, Columbus wrote: "I would like to leave today for the island of Cuba, which I believe to be Cipango, according to the signals given by these people about its greatness and wealth."

Cipango is the name by which Europeans and Chinese called Japan. Therefore, it is likely that Columbus thought that Cuba was Japan, as he himself puts it in his diary.

Only on December 5 of that year, Columbus calls Cuba Juana. From then on, he makes this correlation several times in the diary, as if the two words were synonymous.

Another striking fact is that "the only place called Cuba at that time was located in Portugal", adds Rosa, highlighting the supposed connection between the explorer and the kingdom of Portugal.

4. Dominica

The Caribbean country was visited by Christopher Columbus on November 3, 1493, a Sunday.

For this reason, the explorer named him in honor of God's Day, in Latin Dies Dominica or Sunday.

The natives called him Waitukubuli, which meant "tall as his body," in reference to the mountain range that runs the island from north to south, says the book by the Oxford publisher.

Dominica passed into the hands of the British in 1783 and was part of several colonial federations for the next two centuries.

It became an Associated State of the United Kingdom with a self-managed government in 1967, before becoming an independent republic on November 3, 1978, coinciding with the 485th anniversary of Columbus's arrival on the island.

5. Jamaica

Jamaica was visited by Columbus in 1494.

Although the explorer did not give it that name, it always referred to the locality in this way.

Columbus mentions "Jamaica" six times on his fourth trip.

The original name given by the Aboriginal Aruaks to the island is Xaymaca or Yamaya, meaning "land of wood and water".

Later, in her will, Columbus called her Santiago: "I discovered many islands… Including Jamaica, which we call Santiago." But clearly that name did not last.

The island was under Spanish possession until 1655, when it was conquered by the British.

Jamaica has been an independent state since 1962.

6. Hispaniola

Hispaniola is the island shared by the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

And it was the first Spanish settlement in the "New World".

The natives called the island of Bohio, Baneque or Bareque before Columbus arrived in 1492 and named it Hispaniola.

During the Spanish presence, it was sometimes called Santo Domingo (present name of the capital of the Dominican Republic).

7. Saint Lucia

The island is believed to have been visited by Columbus for the first time in 1502, possibly on December 13, St. Lucia's day.

It exchanged hands between French and English several times during the 17th century, but was ceded to the United Kingdom in 1814 and became one of the Windward Islands in 1871.

Saint Lucia gained independence in 1979.

Its original name was Iouanalao, which means "the place where the iguana was found," according to the Oxford book.

8. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

Columbus arrived on the island of St. Vincent on January 22, 1498, on the day in honor of San Vicente de Zaragoza, a martyr who died tortured in 304.

The name of the Grenadines refers to the Spanish city of Granada.

The islands of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines came under British rule in 1763, although native Aborigines retained control of the island until 1796.

St. Vincent's original name was Youlou or Hairoun, meaning "Home of the Blessed."

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines gained their independence in 1979.

9. Trinidad (and Tobago)

The archipelago consists of two main islands, Trinidad, which is the largest and most populous, and Tobago, as well as several smaller islands.

The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago was originally called Leré by the Caribbean natives, meaning "Land of Hummingbirds".

Christopher Columbus arrived on the island in 1498 and named it Trinidad because of the three peaks surrounding the southern bay where it landed. For him, they represented the Holy Trinity, explains the book of the publisher Oxford.

In the diaries of his four journeys, Columbus repeatedly describes the beauty he encountered while touring the region.

"The waters are always very clear and the bottom is visible … They are very green and fertile islands with very sweet air, and there may be many things I do not know …".

"I believe there is Earthly Paradise, where no one can go except by divine will. And I believe that this land that Your Highnesses have now discovered is very large and there are many others in Austro that have never been heard," wrote the explorer.

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