The Missouri Breaks could have been called the Missouri Quebradas. A quebrada is something broken. Literally, a break (from the verb quebrar). It implies the breaking up of the ground; a shattering of passes and horizons into a rougher country beyond. (A narrow pass between mountains, a deep depression in the land.) It can be used to refer to rugged canyons, a fissurelike ravine, broken and/or uneven ground, or the course of a stream. In the United States, it is most often taken to mean “a mountain stream” (derived either from the way it breaks out of canyons and gullies, or for the kind of country it breaks from). Trivia note: for Spanglish fans, it is worth noting that quebrada is the best slang some Chicanos can come up with for “getting a break” in life. “Orale, vato—dame una quebrada.”

Luis Alberto Urrea