The rr‘s are rolled, a-rrrr-oyo. One of those words that we chronically mispronounce ’round here, like burro. Or burrito. Or the town where I live, which when I say it the way the Spaniards intended it to be said, has depth, like you’re digging down into the roots of the town. Co-rrrrrales.
And my name. My real name, not my pseudonym. Two rr‘s in the middle of a Spanish word are pronounced the same way as one r that is the first letter in a Spanish word.
I’m caught up in Spanish pronunciation these days. Some words come easily, like bosque. That’s another word the Spaniards left us that talks about the nature. And the Sandia Mountains, which are shaped like a sandia, or watermelon. Shaped like a big wedge of a watermelon, cut lengthwise, and at sunset, and sometimes at sunrise, blushing the same color as a watermelon.
I know what an arroyo is because I see them all the time, homes built right up the edge of arroyos, but even the developers aren’t greedy enough to build in the arroyos, although I bet a few have. But many will build right up the edge, which erodes over time, and widens. And then the house’s foundation moves underneath it and cracks.
Problem around here is that so much of the land is river valley, and even the land up on the mesas (another Spanish gift, “tables”) is mostly sand. It shifts and moves, like a snake, with the rains. What we call our monsoons. One year it rained for days straight, some claimed it was the 100-year floods, causing roads and driveways and yards in the sandhills of Corrales and Rio Rancho to wash out. After that, municipal government meetings were filled with faces of people who never showed up to meetings before, demanding that the roads be paved.
I think of cañoncitos and cañadas being a size or two up from arroyos, but that’s just my own odd way of thinking about them. I’m not sure to tell the truth. But in my world of categorizing natural landmarks, arroyos are a size small, cañoncitos a size medium, and cañadas a large. I wonder what the extra-large is.
Mostly I see the words Cañon and Cañada nowadays used in subdivisions. “The Chamisas at Cañoncito.” “The Greens of Las Cañadas.” Not much with the word arroyo, but that’s because it would be like calling something “The Manors at Ditch Way.”
When I was growing up the landmarks used in subdivisions seemed to be related to arbors and glens and farms. Since then, Spanish-sounding names have came into fashion, I guess.
Arroyo really is a sort of gente word. A word of the people. Like burro. A common word. I like how the Spaniards named things so they could remember the landmarks when they returned. Tijeras was an area shaped like scissors. And Socorro, which means “emergency,” was where they almost ran out of water and food and died. Las Cruces, the crosses. Albuquerque was named after a duke, but so many of the names around here originate from how something looked or what they held. Los Ritos—little rivers. Los Alamos—the cottonwoods.
Where we live now, it used to be lots of land and corrals. Farming and horses. Still some of that, although mostly it’s big houses and suburbia.
-related to Writing Topic post: Standing Your Ground — Arroyo, Gulch, Gully & Wash