I reserve the right to say Carrisa Plains, not the Carrizo Plain. (And I usually pronounce Carrisa, “CahReesa.”)
I’m raising this issue now because the Carrisa Plains are in the news.
The county supervisors recently approved the building of two solar-power plants on the Carrisa Plains. They will cover 3,500 acres with 9 million solar panels. But on Tuesday, the supervisors denied another company’s application to build a 100-bed addict-rehabilitation center on the plains.
Now I’ll explain my preference for saying “Carrisa Plains.” First point: Who has the right to name a place? Should the people who print maps have that right? Or should the people who live in a place have the right to name their own place?
I think the residents have that right, and the people of the Carrisa Plains have already made their choice. Many years ago they named their school the Carrisa Plains School. Its address is 9640 Carrisa Highway, which is the name of that stretch of State Route 58.
Second point: Let’s look at history. For years Nell and Walt Clayton ran the Carrisa Mercantile store. It was at Simmler, an area around the intersection of Route 58 and Soda Lake Road, but the store served the people of the entire Carrisa Plains. In 1963, Nell sold the business to the owner of the new California Valley market.
By the way, California Valley isn’t just another name for the Carrisa Plains. It is just a large subdivision created in 1960 within the much larger Carrisa Plains.
Point number three: It has been my pleasure and privilege to know many accomplished Carrisa Plains residents. They invariably said Carrisa, not Carrizo. They usually pronounced it “CahReesa,” although occasionally “CahRissa.”
I concede that Carrizo is the Spanish word for the reed grass that once covered the Carrisa Plains. It was replaced by the more aggressive grasses and grains brought in by white men and their animals’ hooves.
I also concede Spanish speakers came to the area before English speakers. And I agree the first people to occupy an area can name it, but the Spanish speakers weren’t there first, the Indians were.
But neither the Indians nor the Spanish speakers became permanent residents; they hunted and grazed there only seasonally because water was scarce and sometimes bad.
To me, the settlers who established ranches there in the 19th and 20th centuries own the naming right. They can call it whatever they want, and we should respect that.
Reach Phil Dirkx at firstname.lastname@example.org or 238-2372.