Despite the name, jackrabbits are actually hares. They are named for their long ears, which initially caused some people to refer to them as jackass rabbits.
The two most likely candidates in the novel are the Black-tailed Jackrabbit, native to the western U.S. and Mexico, and the Antelope Jackrabbit, found in Arizona in the U.S. and the states of Chihuahua, Nayarit, Sinaloa and Sonora in Mexico.
The Dos Cabezas Mountains are a mountain range in southeasternmost Arizona. Dos Cabezas means Two Heads in Spanish, after the twin granite peaks, Dos Cabezas Peaks, which sit atop the range.
Route 666 was the former name of the highway which runs through Colorado, New Mexico and Utah.
The route was nicknamed the Devil's Highway because of the number's association with the Number of the Beast. This satanic connotation, combined with a high fatality rate along the New Mexico portion, led many to believe the highway was cursed. As a result, the highway was renamed Route 491 in 2003.
A tertulia is similar to a salon, a social gathering with literary or artistic overtones, especially in Spain or Latin America.
A bellwether (from the Middle English bellewether) was a castrated ram (a wether) which lead his flock of sheep with a bell tied around its neck. The sound of the bell allowed shepherds to keep track of their sheep when the flock was out of sight.
The Mormon colony at Colonia Juárez was established in 1886. Although the town was planned before the U.S. government banned the practice of polygamy, much of its growth in the late 19th century was due to Mormon immigrants leaving Utah and other parts of the U.S to escape persecution.
The town thrives to this day and is known for its peach and apple orchards, as well as its renowned Mormon school the Academia Juarez.
It is something of an irony that the Mormons, persecuted for their way of life, should have come to influence that ultimate symbol of middle-class American respectability - the well-kept lawn and white picket fence.
Also known as Gran Chichimeca and Casas Grandes (‘Big Houses’), the Paquimé civilization dates back to the 8th century and became the major Indian trading settlement in northern Mexico during the 14th and 15th centuries. At its peak, the local population is estimated to have been around 10,000.
Paquimé rapidly declined in influence following the Spanish Conquest of Mexico and was finally abandoned in the 17th century after further Spanish colonisation displaced many of the indigenous peoples in the surrounding area.
Paquimé dramatically expanded during the mid 12th century when it began to acquire influences from the more advanced civilizations of Mesoamerica (historians are unsure whether this represents an invasion from the south or influence emanating from an increase in trade with southern Indian civilizations). Paquimé acquired some specifically Toltec features, such as its ballcourt.
Similar ballcourts throughout Mesoamerica are often accompanied by long platforms carved with human skulls skewered on stakes (known as Tzompantli) and reliefs depicting the decapitation of a ball player, suggesting the game may have had some religious significance. Games may have been followed by the sacrifice of one or more of the players, the skulls of the victims ending up on the Tzompantli. There is, though, no evidence to suggest human sacrifice was practiced at Paquimé.
The rules of the game varied from region to region, but probably closely resembled the ulama or pok a tok game still played throughout Central America today.
The remains of pottery found within the Paquimé ruins suggests a highly cultured civilization that belies the original Spanish settlers description of the Chichimeca as primitive savages.
Countless other treasures in the Casas Grandes district were lost to looters in the years following the Spanish Conquest.
La Babícora was the name of a huge ranch owned by William Randolph Hearst, the influential American newspaper magnate and inspiration for Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane. The Hearst Castle Preservation Foundation estimates its size having been one million acres, although some accounts claim the ranch was around 3.4 million acres in size.
The lands in Chihuahua had been acquired by Hearst’s father, U.S. Senator George Hearst, after he received advance notice that Geronimo – who had terrorized settlers in the region – had surrendered. Hearst was able to buy hundreds of acres for next to nothing because only he knew that they had become much more secure. The younger Hearst was in Mexico as early as 1886, when he wrote to his mother that ‘I really don't see what is to prevent us from owning all of Mexico and running it to suit ourselves.’
Click here for James B. Barker's account of working upon the Babicora ranch, which also includes some fascinating detail on the Mexican Revolution.