The place names of eastern El Salvador help to place that region as the place of origin of the Olmecs, who likely left El Salvador for Mexico's Veracruz Gulf region sometime between 2000 and 1800 BCE, with a likely stop in between. Further confirming the Olmek link between eastern El Salvador and Veracruz are place names in Veracruz. Most place names in the region have a Nahuatl origin or finish. But there are some older place names that pre-date Nahuatl and are likely the original names given by the Olmecs, which appears to be a Mixe-Zoque language, a close relative of the Mayan languages according to Joseph Greenberg.
Here are some of the place names in Veracruz:
Cosoleacaque Sayula TonalaNanchital Mezcalapa Choapas
Hueyapan Ostion Sontecomapan
Cuichapa Tecuanapa Guazinapa (Rio)
Coxcoapan Hiuhualtaja Nanciyaga
Tepeyaga Mecayapan Tatahuicapan
Chacalapa Macayal Cahuapan
Nopalapa El Azuzal El Manati'
Cobata Tapalapan Totogal
All of these are place names that one would not be surprised to hear in eastern El Salvador, where you find names like: Jucuapa, Miracapa, and Uluazapa. Most of the Veracruz names above have a Ch'orti' Maya sound to them but only have a partial, at most, meaning in Ch'orti'. And they have a Lenca sound to them, the language of the people who have lived in eastern El Salvador for thousands of years. This is precisely what one would expect with the Olmec place names. But some names could beyond just sounding similar.
Chinameca is a town southwest of the coastal city of Coatzalcoalcos, Veracruz. Chinameca is also a town in the San Miguel department of El Salvador, likely the first Chinameca. This name still has meaning in Ch'orti', indicating that it was first named at an early date, before the Olmecs moved to Veracruz where their language began to quickly change. This means that the town, or at least the place name, of Chinameca, El Salvador, has existed since at least 2000 BCE. In Ch'orti':
Chinam - pueblo (people, town)
Meka - carry in one's arms (or Olomeka)
Meka likely refers not so much to Lake Olomeka but to the Olmecs themselves, so Chinameca means "town of the Olmecs." Its literal meaning is "town carry in one's arms".
Like the sister language of the Olmecs, the Lenca language began to change quickly once the Olmecs left for Mexico. This indicates that the cultural need to keep the language close to the Mayan no longer was so strong.
Catemaco is another place name with likely ties to El Salvador. I believe that Catemaco was the first settlement of the Olmces in Veracruz. Lago Catemaco undoubtedly reminded them of Lago Olomega. It is nearly the same size and mountains rise up around most of the lake, like Olomega. It is very near to the coast, less than 15 kilometer from the Laguna Sontecomapan.
Catemaco directly harkens back to Olomega:
Ka - to remember
Temaco - Teomeka
To add formality and importance to the name of their first settlement, the Olmecs used the old name - the original Mayan name - for Olomega (Teomeka): Remembering Teomeka. Each syllable changed: teo to te, me to ma, and ka to co. The Olmecs already lost memory of the precise name of Teomeka - and Olomega for that matter. This indicates that generations passed between the departure from El Salvador and the arrival in Veracruz. I think those generations were spent on the Honduran coast at a site called Travesia ("sailing"). From Travesia they would get to know the Atlantic Ocean with their sailing vessels after spending so many years along the Pacific. Those who stayed in Honduras became known as the Uluas.
The Olmecs soon developed their own culture in Veracruz, related but distinct from the Mayan culture they left behind in El Salvador. In their place names they provided clues about where they came from, in order to remember Teomeka.