Today citizens of Venezuela, Colombia and Bolivia celebrate the birth of the Libertador of northern South America: Simón Bolivar. He was born on this day in 1783 in Caracas, Venezuela.
Bolivar is one of the few people to have a country permanently named after him, and is the only person born in the New World to have been so honored.
Countries named directly after individuals
Belize – possibly from the Spanish pronunciation of “Wallace”. Captain Peter Wallace was a pirate commissioned by King James I to pillage Spanish ships in the region. He built his base at the mouth of what is now the Belize River. May also be from the Mayan “belix” meaning “muddy water”.
Bermuda – after explorer Juan de Bermudez, who arrived there in 1503.
Colombia – Christopher Columbus
Dominican Republic – after St. Domingo de Guzman, founder of the Dominican Order.
El Salvador – literally, “the Savior”, after Jesus of Nazareth.
Kiribati – from the Gilbert Islands, for Captain Thomas Gilbert.
Mozambique – possibly from sheik Mussa Ben Mbiki.
Philippines – King Philip II of Spain
San Marino – from St Marinus, an ancient stonemason who fled to the area to escape Roman persecution
Sao Tome and Principe – from St. Thomas. Portuguese explorers encountered the land on St. Thomas’s Day. (December 21)
Seychelles – for Jean Moreau de Sechelles, King Louis XV’s Finance Minister.
Amerigo Vespucci is the only person to have a continent named after him, and he got two! The explorer helped prove that the lands Christopher Columbus encountered were not in Asia, but were entirely new continents. In 1507 cartographer Martin Waldseemuller labeled the new continents after the Italian explorer when he printed 1000 copies of his famous globe of the world.
Waldseemuller’s 1507 Globe Map