Lo Barnechea, Lo Curro, Lo Espejo, Las Condes, Manquehue, Llanquihue… Ever wonder about the names of places in Chile? A Cachando Chile reader asked… so I did my homework.
I’m an inquisitive kind of person, so when a reader wrote to say that as a non-Chilean native Spanish speaker she was curious about some common place names in Chile, I was ready to take up the challenge. She commented that although the pronoun “Lo” as in Lo Barnechea, Lo Curro, Lo Espejo, and Lo Ovalle is common here, she had never seen it used in any other Spanish-speaking country, where the article La or El is the norm.
She got me thinking, so I turned to my friend and favorite grammarian-slash-linguistics expert, who came through in record time (Thank you Paula!). As the reader rightly suspected, “lo” in this case infers ownership and is short for “lo de los Barnechea.” Long story short, the Barnechea’s once owned some land that became known as Lo Barnechea–as in, “I’m going over to the Barnechea’s place.” The same goes for the Curro’s, the Espejo’s, the Ovalle’s, and a number of other former hacienda-owning families. Case solved.
And what about the municipality of Las Condes, she also wondered? I’ve had my doubts about that one myself. A conde is a count, so shouldn’t it be LOS Condes? Should we be wondering about just what kinds of counts these guys were? No, as it turns out. The story goes that a couple of Peruvian sister-countesses owned the land, formerly known as the La Sierra Bella Fundo (a fundo is a hacienda, or estate, in Chilean Spanish), until it became a municipality in 1901. So now the question is why wasn’t it named “Las Condesas”? The mystery continues… (Anyone know the answer?)
Chile also has many places of all types that end in “hue” (pronounced “way”) or “gua” (pronounced “gwah”), which mean “place” in Mapudungún, the language of the indigenous Mapuches. For example, the mountain that reigns over the Santiago horizon, Manquehue (mahn-KAY-way), means place of the condors, although today it should probably be renamed “place of the hang-gliders” because they’re a far more common sight these days than any condors!
Lake Llanquihe (yahn-KEE-way) in the south means the lost lake or the lost place. And no, by the way, you’re not the first person to catch the similarity to “Yankee way,” there’s even a tourist lodge by that name in the area!
Colchagua (kohl-CHAH-gwah), now famous as a major wine region, means nesting place of the huala (Podiceps major), the sacred bird of the Mapuches (other sources say it means grassy place). Rancagua, just south of Santiago, means place where reeds grow; Antilhue, sunny place; Pencahue, place where pumpkins grow; Puyehue, water with pueyes (the fresh-water fish Galaxias maculatus); Curahue, rocky place; Carahue, populated place, and so on.
So, thanks for the question!