The names of the streets portray us: many virgins, saints and nobles, little science and fewer women than men | Technology | The USA Print

Results of the search engine for streets named after virgins.
Results of the search engine for streets named after virgins.stnameslab

“Names are part of how we create the world we live in, understand, and believe in. They are not just there; we are creating [con ellos] the meaning of ourselves”, says Natchee Barnd, professor of Ethnic Studies at the University of Oregon (USA) and author of a study on place names. Barnd argues that place names are a portrait of societies and their evolution shows what they want to be. A free online application, developed by researchers from the Pablo de Olavide (UPO) and Seville (US) universities, allows us to observe, through the names of the streets, where we come from and where we are going. Religious names are not exclusive to Spain or Italy, scientists are scarce, those of women (until now a minority) are gaining ground in new neighborhoods, those of businessmen are reduced to the area of ​​their places of origin, those of artists maintain their strength and the ominous of history disappear or begin to be questioned.

“We have created the tool for the general public and for researchers of the use of place names as sociocultural indicators,” says Daniel Oto-Peralías. This professor of Economics, Quantitative Methods and Economic History at the UPO, together with his department partner Demetrio Carmona Derqui and Dolores Gutiérrez Mora, from the US School of Architecture, have developed within the program stnames lab a search engine that feeds on the street information from the Spanish electoral census — “allows us to have data from many years,” explains Oto-Peralías — and Open Street Maps (a free access collaborative program) for another 14 countries in Europe and the United States.

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Religion. With simple search criteria, the application allows you to see that, of the almost million streets in Spain, there are 45,116 named after saints, virgins and Christs. The words virgin or Christ predominate in the southern half of the country and, especially, in Madrid, due to its greater number of streets, Seville, Córdoba and Murcia. The evolution since 2001 has not been decreasing. On the contrary, they have increased by a thousand.

Oto-Peralías, in an investigation published by OSF, explains: “The population in areas of Spain with a higher percentage of streets with names related to religion tend to have stronger religious beliefs and behaviors, which supports the existence of a relationship between street names and the cultural values ​​of the population”.

The European search engine throws up another country where the streets of saints, rather than saints or virgins, is common: France. In the neighboring country, with a larger population than Spain, there are more than 48,000 streets with these denominations, higher in absolute terms, but proportionally less than in Spain. On the contrary, in the areas with the most Protestant tradition in Germany, the Netherlands or Belgium, these denominations almost disappeared.

The UPO professor clarifies that, in addition to the religious bond, it is necessary to take into account “the historical weight or the inertia in maintaining the names.” “You have to look at current trends,” he adds.

Science and nobility. History also weighs when it comes to names of scientists. In Spain, those related to the Nobel laureates Ramon y Cajal (1,383 streets), Severo Ochoa (481), Marie Curie (106) or Alexander Fleming (929) predominate. However, in memory of the nobility, Spain doubles the rest of Europe with more than 3,000 routes called count, duke or marquis.

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Gender. A previous study by the same team revealed that only 12% of Spanish streets are named after women, only 2.5 points more than 20 years ago. Gutiérrez Mora considered after this study: “It is not, of course, a significant advance in terms of equality, however, it must be said that it is to be expected.” In this field, Spain is not the only one. Another study published in PLOS ONE pointed out that only 4% of the streets in Paris are dedicated to women, 25% of the roads honor them in New York and 40% in London and Vienna.

Oto-Peralías believes that the trend in Spain points to a correction of the inequality observed in the last two decades. In this sense, he points out that “the new and renowned streets in recent years with women’s names represent around 30%.” “It is being corrected. There is no parity yet, but the new trend denotes how the current values ​​of greater equality are being reflected.

Martin Luther King District of Atlanta.
Martin Luther King District of Atlanta.Monica Gonzalez (El País)

Historical and social relevance. The names of characters in this category do not follow a uniform pattern either. In the United States, despite the fact that common names and numbers are often used (Broadway, Market Street, 5th Avenue), one would expect a street full of Martin Luther King roads. However, there are only 1,085 streets in his honor, 79% of them in southern states, where, according to the study of OSF“racial tensions have historically been, and still are, more notable.”

Similarly, in Europe, for the philosophers of socialism Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Germany is the only reserve of the street. In this country are concentrated the 751 of the thousand streets of the continent with their names, the vast majority in what was the Democratic Republic of Germany.

Some European countries use time limits before naming a road after a politician after his death. In Spain there is no legislation in this regard, but it is usual to avoid using denominations of active characters. “In most municipalities, especially the small ones, there are no regulations. It would be a good idea to regulate it”, comments Oto-Peralías. A total of 204 streets bear the name of Adolfo Suárez, the first president of the Government of the current Spanish democracy. The name Constitución is repeated in 2,722 Spanish streets, but it appears in a very small number in Catalonia, in the south of the Basque Country and Navarra.

Ominous events and characters in history. It is very difficult to find streets that allude to dictatorial figures. The search engine does not return routes named Benito Mussolini in Italy, Adolf Hitler in Germany or António de Oliveira Salazar in Portugal. However, the application shows three Francisco Franco streets in Spain, 44 named Generalissimo and eight Miguel Primo de Rivera. The application of the Historical Memory Law has been erasing these streets. Before its approval in 2007, there were still 491 streets with the military rank that the dictator attributed to himself.

The existence of questioned characters has also been observed in place names of natural monuments in the United States. The research from the University of Oregon Led by Barnd, they analyzed 2,241 place names in 16 national parks and in all of them they found at least one place named after people who supported racist, colonialist ideologies or acts of genocide, according to the study. The study highlights as examples the cases of Cadillac Mountain in Maine, in honor of the French colonizer Antoine de Cadillac, or Hayden Valley, in memory of Ferdinand Hayden, a geologist who wrote: “Unless Native Americans are forcibly assimilated, they must ultimately be exterminated.” They also found names, many of them descriptive and irrelevant, such as Clear Creek (clear stream) or Long Pond (Elongated Pond), which replaced the original native denomination.

Labor. The business world is not represented in the Spanish street map either. Current and recent figures such as Juan Roig, Amancio Ortega, Emilio Botín and Ramón Areces (the founders of Mercadona, Inditex, Banco de Santander and Corte Inglés) or historical ones such as Ramón Ybarra, Ramón de la Sota or the Osborne family, barely have a or six streets, mainly located in their places of origin. On the contrary, Germany does dedicate 42 tracks to Karl Benz and 178 to Gottlieb Daimler, founders of Mercedes Benz.

The opposite happens with historical Spanish union leaders, such as Marcelino Camacho, founder of Comisiones Obreras, which has 38 streets. “The general population is more represented with workers than with businessmen due to the social structure,” explains the UPO researcher.

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