Near where I grew up in southwest Virginia, along the Blue Ridge mountains in Rockbridge County, there’s a town called Buena Vista, pop. 6,000. On paper, the name of the town is identical to Buena Vista, Colorado, pop. 2,000, nestled in the Arkansas River Valley of the Rocky Mountains. Or Lake Buena Vista, Florida, pop. 11, one of two municipalities owned by The Walt Disney Company, which is named for Buena Vista street in Burbank, California, where the company is headquartered. All of these would seem, in the context of the neutral everyplace/no-place of a book page, to be the same words as buena vista, the Spanish phrase meaning “good view.” Yet ask for directions to “bway-na vee-sta” in a gas station in the mountains of Southwest Virginia or Central Colorado, and you may as well be speaking a foreign tongue.
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