Where did the baby name Avianca come from in 1990?

Avianca airplane
Avianca airplane

Have you seen the headlines about Avianca Bohm?

After being crowned Miss New Zealand several days ago, it was revealed that she isn’t officially a New Zealand citizen, just a New Zealand resident, so she shouldn’t have qualified to run in the first place. (She was born in South Africa.)

I’m not sure what will happen to her title, but I was excited to see her name. My first thought was, “I bet Avianca was born in 1990.” (Yes, I really thought that.)

I looked it up, and I was right!

How could I have known? Is it because I’m psychic? No, sadly — it’s because I remember that the baby name Avianca debuted in the U.S. baby name data in 1990:

  • 1992: unlisted
  • 1991: 5 baby girls named Avianca
  • 1990: 18 baby girls named Avianca [debut]
  • 1989: unlisted
  • 1988: unlisted

And how did I remember that? Well, the story behind the debut is hard to forget. It involves a drug lord, a soon-to-be president, and a deadly plane accident.

On November 27, 1989, a bomb aboard Avianca Airlines Flight 203 from Bogota, Colombia, to Cali, Colombia, was detonated minutes after takeoff. The plane went down in flames. Everyone on board, plus three more people on the ground, were killed.

The bomb had been planted by henchmen working for Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar. The intended target was presidential candidate Cesar Gaviria. Gaviria wasn’t on the flight, though, and he did indeed go on to become the president of Colombia. Escobar, on the other hand, was killed by the Colombian National Police several years later.

The incident was all over the news, giving the word “Avianca” — an acronym for Aerovías del Continente Americano (translation: Airways of the American Continent) — quite a bit of exposure. This is what led to Avianca being used as a girl name on nearly 20 birth certificates in the U.S. the following year.

If Avianca Bohm keeps her crown and makes it to Miss Universe, I hope they skip all the questions about world peace and just ask her about her name. (Are you listening, Donald Trump?)

Update: Avianca Bohm was stripped of her crown in late July. Talia Bennett, the first runner-up, subsequently became the new Miss New Zealand.


Image: Avianca Boeing 727-21 HK-1803 by Richard Vandervord under CC BY-SA 4.0.

[Latest update: July 2023]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.