Ecuador’s presidential vote Sunday pits two radically different views of the country against each other that will have ripple effects across the region. But it’s also highlighting another quirk of this South American nation: its continuing use of well-known historical names — even some infamous ones that would be anathema in other places.
The country is choosing between ruling-party candidate Lenín Moreno and Guillermo Lasso with the opposition CREO party. In almost any other country, it would be reasonable to assume that the name Guillermo (which translates to William) would be far more popular than Lenín — but not here.
According to the national statistics institute, there were 18,464 people named Lenín registered in the country from 1950 to 2015. During that same period there were 16,088 Guillermos. By comparison, in the United States, which has 20 times the population of Ecuador, there are fewer than 1,700 Lenins.
Ecuador is also full of other historical figures, including Stalins (18,728), Vladimirs (1,518), Leons (860), Roosevelts (587), Hitlers (560), Maos (122) and Trotskys (22).
The names aren’t necessarily ideologically motivated.
In a column in El País newspaper, Giovanni Hitler Cando said his Ecuadorian father was named Bolívar (after the Latin American liberator Simón Bolívar) and that his brother was named Stalin (Hitler’s World War II nemesis). Although he says his name has generated uncomfortable encounters over the years, he doesn’t think his father had any political intentions.
“Obviously, my brother’s name undermines the idea that I was named Hitler for ideological reasons,” Cando wrote. “Possibly [my father] thought it was amusing to witness domestic squabbles between Hitler and Lenin as if he had the power to rewrite every day of the 20th century.”
This article has been modified for clarification.