Raswan in New Mexico
Cloud Laundry

The Place Names of New Mexico - An Autobiography

Robert Julyan’s 1996 edition by UNM Press is the one I have. It’s pretty tattered. He dedicated the first edition to his daughter and signed this copy for my sister at a bookstore  somewhere in Albuquerque. It’s dated 2/25/96. “For Lisa, Best wishes exploring the names and places of New Mexico. Bob Julyan.”

She caught this wish and this book was an invaluable tool that traveled with us all over the state, along with the good maps. We drove our father’s 1992 white Ford Explorer, packed to the gills, and called it “Cadillac car camping,” but we may have gotten that term from somewhere else. We re-used fire rings, brought our own wood and left campsites better than we found them. We ate like queens: grilled steaks and morning bacon and eggs. Mostly we camped on BLM land before motorized off-road activity exploded. It wasn’t hard to find quiet places then. 

We decided where to go on the basis of the weather forecast, (from TV news,) and where we could be at sundown, depending on what time I could get off work or when her flight got in. Then, in route, we would consult topographic maps and this book, learning on the go.

My sister died in 1999 and I haven’t camped since. but I still use Julyan’s Place Names book for my armchair travels. 

“(P)lace names result from the fundamental and universal human need to label with words, and the concepts of naming and place identity are inextricably linked.”

Naming places reflects who we are. In this way, the book is an autobiography.

“(A)s centuries have passed, as people, languages, and cultures have intermingled, New Mexico’s place-name autobiography has expanded and undergone continuous change.”

It is good to hear from TACA board member and friend, Jerry Widdison, that a new edition is in the works. He is credited in the first edition as being a “meticulous editor, tireless researcher, observant traveler, and generous friend.” I very much look forward to a fresh crisp edition, signed by both of them.

The autobiography is still being written.




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