© Mark Lipczynski
Ajo means “garlic” in Spanish, and Ajo’s name likely comes from the area’s abundance of desert lilies, the bulbs of which have a garlic-like flavor. But, like many of Arizona’s small towns, Ajo’s history is rooted in mining. One of the state’s first copper mines was located here, and the local newspaper, the Ajo Copper News, has been in business since 1916. The area is also known for other minerals, including ajoite, a silicate first discovered in the area, and papagoite, a bright-blue cyclosilicate found nowhere else in North America. Today, many of Ajo’s residents are retirees or U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents. And even though the copper mine shut down in the 1980s, mining-history buffs can view its 1.5-mile-wide pit from a scenic lookout.
— Noah Austin