An oil painting that recreates the birth of the US flag, with Washington sitting on the left. Inset, Luis de Unzaga / J.L. FERRY

Luis de Unzaga, the Malaga man who named the USA, now has a plaque in his honour

The city council has placed the plaque on the house in which he lived in the Alameda Principal, and the roundabout outside the Port has also been named after him


There are some names which are not embedded in the collective imagination but have acquired universal transcendence through their actions and the legacy they have left behind. One of those is Luis de Unzaga y Amézaga. His surnames may be Basque in origin but he was from Malaga, and born on 6 April 1717. He was a military man and a great promotor of independence for the United States. He can boast of something else, too: he named the country whose first president was George Washington.

The plaque is at number 12 Alameda Principal, which was Luis de Unzaga's home. / marcos álvarez

This was discovered by researchers Frank Cazorla, Rosa García Baena and José David Polo, who are also from Malaga and the authors of the biography El Gobernador Luis de Unzaga. They found a letter from George Washington to his right-hand man, Joseph Reed, referring to a “very flattering” letter he had just received from Unzaga: “He gives me the title of 'General de los Estados Unidos Americanos', which is a tolerable step towards declaring himself our ally in positive terms”.

And now, since Monday, Luis de Unzaga has a commemorative plaque in the Alameda Principal, outside number 12, the building in which he lived when he decided to return to Malaga and spend the last years of his life. And not only that: later the same day, the roundabout giving access to the Port from the Alameda de Colón was also officially named after him.


The mayor of Malaga, Francisco de la Torre, and the councillor for Culture, Noelia Losada, unveiled the plaque, and the mayor gave a short speech in which he gave some details of De Unzaga’s glittering military career. He pointed out that among other contributions to Malaga city, he had promoted the construction of the Alameda, including his own house, and the expansion of the port.

“If he hadn’t been in the military, he would have been a great statesman because of his intelligence and his ability to get on with people,” said the mayor.