Peña and peñasco are Spanish for boulder or large rock. The word peñasco is sometimes used when referring to a rocky promontory. People in the southwestern United States and throughout Mexico use the words to indicate landmarks when giving directions to travelers. Settlements were frequently named for the peñas or peñascos nearby, as in the New Mexico towns of Peña Blanca and Peñasco. In his book Big Bend: A Homesteader’s Story, J. O. Langford writes: “That night we camped at old Fort Peña, where in 1881 a band of Apaches had made a last fierce and fatal effort to slaughter the United States soldiers there.”

Arturo Longoria