SANTIAGO PEAK. Santiago Peak is in the Santiago Mountains twenty-eight miles southwest of Marathon and twelve miles south of Del Norte Gap in central Brewster County (at 29°50' N, 103°25' W). With an elevation of 6,524 feet above sea level, it rises 2,700 feet above State Highway 118, nine miles west. Santiago Peak is a large intrusive mass, some 35 million years old, and a local landmark visible for miles. Its shallow, stony soils support scrub brush, creosote bush, cacti, grasses, oak, and mesquite. There are at least three explanations of how the mountain got its name. One holds that it was named for the son of a nineteenth-century Spanish soldier, a youth who set off in pursuit of a band of Indians who had stolen some cattle. He caught up with them and bravely engaged them in combat, but the Indians killed him at the foot of the mountain, which now bears his name. Another version of the same story, however, says that the young man was actually killed at Puerto Potrillo, thirty miles west of Santiago Peak. A second explanation of the mountain's name holds that it honors the patron saint of the Spanish military order of Santiago (St. James). Supposedly, a small band of Spanish soldiers was passing near a cloud-capped mountain in the mid-eighteenth century when they met a larger group of hostile Indians. The Spanish commander told his men that their patron saint might be watching from the clouds around the summit; thus heartened, the soldiers yelled "Santiago!" and charged, scattering the Indians. According to the third tale, in the late nineteenth century a group of Indians under a chief named Santiago raided the Mexican village of San Carlos, a few miles south of the Rio Grande, and carried off several captives. The inhabitants of the town gave chase and managed to kill off all the raiders except Santiago himself. They tracked him to the foot of the mountain, where he abandoned his horse and began climbing. He evaded his pursuers until nightfall. Then he yelled, "Soy Santiago!" ("I am Santiago!") and followed his taunt with a stream of boasts in broken and obscene Spanish and in his own language. The next morning the Mexicans could find no trace of him.
Walter Fulcher, The Way I Heard It: Tales of the Big Bend (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1959; rpt. 1973).