Good news! I'm wrong! There is a way to change names and places. I had tried to look at the files before but never had any luck. But I had to go back and look today. There is nothing in the data files at all, in fact, I think they might be music files or something. Rich??
But the Tropico.exe file is where the names are stored. If you go in with a hex editor, you can see the following stuff near the bottom of the files at these addresses (version 1.06 file):
City Names: 0017:7E80-8040
Editor Conditons: 0017:AEA0-EAF0
Dictator Names: 0018:1AA0-20C0
Character Names: 0018:7790-8D20
There is also some other interesting stuff on cheat codes, wav file names and even a hint of a scenario translation program. :-/
The names look to be strings of 8 to 12 characters long and should work if you keep them to that. I changed Che Guevera to my name and changed Clyde the cow to Chris, and it worked! You need a good hex editor to do this, I don't think Wordpad would cut it. I use Hackman