A broad term in use predominately in Texas, banco, like its English cognate bank, refers to just about anything heaped, pushed, or fallen into some kind of slope or incline. Examples would be banco de arena (sand bank), banco de nieve (snow bank), and, of course, the bank of a river, whether it’s bermed up or not. But then banco covers more than bank. In the Gulf of Mexico, you’ll find coral reefs (bancos de coral) with names like Banco Nuevo and Banco Inglés. Yet another use is along the Rio Grande in Texas, where banco means those banks that America and Mexico were always swapping back and forth before the Rio Grande was tamed with dams and treaties. The Socorro Mission (La Purísima) in El Paso sits on one such banco. An 1829 flood changed the river’s course not just from north of the mission to south of it, but far enough south that you can’t even see the river from the mission anymore. So in places like that, though it doesn’t feel like you’re standing on the bank of a river at all, you are nevertheless on a banco.

Stephen Graham Jones