Mar 302010

Another interesting example of an unusual place name (following on from an earlier post about unusual place names) is the name “La Curva de la Gringa”, the American woman’s curve.

La Curva de la Gringa is the name of a 90-degree bend near Jungapeo, west of Zitácuaro in the state of Michoacán. Literally translated as “the American woman’s curve”, how did this name come about? The first thing to remember is that all names on maps have to come from somewhere. Detailed maps of Mexico, including the 1:50,000 series, relied initially on aerial (later satellite) imagery, followed by some checking on the ground. Given the expense, ground checking was often relatively limited. However, the on-the-ground surveyors were responsible for adding names to the maps.

La Curva de la Gringa, Michoacán (on Mexico’s 1:50,000 topographic map)

In this case, local informants were apparently unanimous in calling this bend La Curva de la Gringa. Further research shows that this had nothing to do with any purported similarity to the sensuous curve of a gringa‘s breast, but derived from when the road was first paved in the 1950s. Apparently, shortly after the road was finished, an American lady driving her oversized gas-guzzler down to the luxury spa of San José Purua completely missed this bend, and plowed into a cornfield. The locals have long memories!

In 2010, this road is being widened, and sidewalks and street lights installed, all the way from Federal Highway 15 (see map), past La Curva de la Gringa, and as far as the money allocated (currently about 7 million pesos) allows. The first section was due to be inaugurated 21 March 2010. If anyone has an update, please leave a comment. Here’s hoping that no more accidents ever occur along this stretch of road, and that no future place names ever reflect such unfortunate incidents.

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