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The Name's Roo

Monday April 4, 2022

Recently I realized I had read the name “Quintana Roo” too many times to not know more about it. This is part of Mexico, so what’s with the Roo in the name? It doesn’t exactly sound Spanish, does it?

Quintana Roo is one of the 31 states of Mexico, and it turns out that it’s named after historic Mexican political figure Andrés Quintana Roo, a descendant of Canary Islanders. Aha, so I pretty much gave up on figuring out the Roo surname from there, because I found out that this is also a place where they have this interesting whistle.

Well, it’s a whistle that’s a language, known as el silbo or Silbo Gomero. It’s pretty cool to see and hear it in action and it reminds me of some things.

The first thing that it reminds me of is being a young outdoors-kid, working his tail off for all these badges. There was all this learning about all these different forms of communication. Flags, mirrors, whistles, trail signs, animal signs, long-form narratives that end in a silly joke, and so on.

The second thing it reminds me of is radio propagation, specifically line-of-sight propagation which is where there are a lot of overlaps with ranges used in whistling for communication. But it’s not quite as simple as one might think; I mean you’ve got fresnel zones to think about, and I wouldn’t even call a fresnel zone calculator a very intuitive tool at all.

So I wonder if whistling gets that complex, and if, way back when, in the Canary Islands, there was somebody working on similar tools or practices for the dynamics of whistling for communication. I’m sure the topic can go pretty deep.

Anyway, back to the Isleños, or those who hail from the Canary Islands, you’ve got this very fascinating cross-emigration between Cuba and the Canaries, for example Fidel Castro was born in the Canary Islands, and from what I understand, the Canary Islanders are basically responsible for the Cuban cigar industry.

By the way, the Canary Islands are not named after the bird, but rather either dogs or an African Berber tribe known as Canarii. Something like that—and from what I can tell, this latter point may be a very important point of identity for a people who were colonized by Spain.

Oh and San Antonio, Texas, USA, was founded by Canary Islanders. All of a sudden there are a bunch of random facts coming up as I open various browser tabs.

I thought I’d look up a book on the Canary Islands so I headed over to Gutenberg.org and found book number 66355, which is to say The Canary Islands by Florence Du Cane, which starts a little something like this:

Probably many people have shared my feeling of disappointment on landing at Santa Cruz. I had long ago realised that few places come up to the standard of one’s preconceived ideas, so my mental picture was not in this case a very beautiful one; but even so, the utter hideousness of the capital of Teneriffe was a shock to me.

And with that out of the way, there are some interesting historical insights shared, so maybe it’s a good book. There’s also a book called A Voyage to New Holland, Etc. in the Year 1699 by William Dampier which is from a couple centuries earlier, and contains some pretty neat map-style drawings along with quite concrete descriptions of the place as he found it.

Finally, the Tenerife airport disaster is absolutely gobsmacking and worth the read, or maybe the watch.

Additional aspects I thought were interesting:

  • Lucha canaria, the islands’ own form of wrestling
  • Parts of Solo: A Star Wars Story were filmed on Fuerteventura
  • Speaking of Star Wars, Krull was also filmed in the Canary Islands.

So, starting with Quintana Roo and going through all that, I’ve still got about 30 tabs open that will have to wait for another time. Examples:

Too fun!

Filed in: Randomness /26/ | Interests /111/

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