picacho

Picacho and pico both denote a landscape feature that rises and tapers to a peak. Picacho has the added sense of a pico that’s out of the ordinary; it’s a really imposing summit. It would be Pikes Picacho in an alternate history, not Pikes Peak. Other high, isolated landforms in the Southwest, although less grand than Pikes Peak, are sometimes given the descriptive title of picacho, perhaps because even a moderately tall butte is awe-inspiring enough to a born flatlander. Pico means “beak” or “snout” in conversational Spanish, and other things when the language gets vulgar. Place-names are often duplications when two language communities are in prolonged contact. Mount Picacho in New Mexico and Picacho Peak in Arizona, for example, are redundant. The most significant Civil War battle in Arizona took place near Picacho Peak in 1862, when a detachment of Union soldiers from California encountered a Confederate scouting party. The ashes of Mary Austin, author of The Land of Little Rain, were interred in 1934 on Mount Picacho above Santa Fe.

D. J. Waldie