Throughout the American West the word vega suggests meadow. Las Vegas, Nevada, takes its name from an entry in John Frémont’s 1848 diary, in which he refers to Spanish words used to signify marshy plains. The Spanish meaning of vega is fairly general: “flat bottomland.” But in Cuba it means, more specifically, a tobacco plantation or any fertile low area. In Chile, vega refers to a swamp. In south Texas and northern Mexico, the term often means the first bench above the river, usually filled with river cane. In The Man Who Killed the Deer, Frank Waters writes: “At a stream a mile ahead, he turned off upon a narrow trail. The wild plum thickets gave way to grassy vegas, tawny pastures, brittle corn fields.”

Arturo Longoria