angostura

A narrow way: the narrows. A tight squeeze. The term angostura relates to the narrowest of mountain ravines or trails. (The harrowing scene in Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian where two mule trains meet—one going down a mountain and the other climbing—and one mule train is forced to plunge off the cliff in eerie silence, is a classic portrait of an encounter at an angostura. Anyone who has ridden a long-distance bus in Mexico, moreover, will never forget passing on a narrow curve at midnight.) In the water, an angostura could be a particularly tight stretch of river—expect whitewater there. One could extend it to the sea, since an angostura might be defined loosely as a strait, as in the Straits of Juan de Fuca—a reasonably tight stretch. However, the proper word in Spanish for this is estrecho. You know what they say about the Road to Heaven: El camino al infierno es ancho, pero el camino al cielo es una angostura.

Luis Alberto Urrea