by Mike Lavelle
In the last issue, I referenced a recent 5 day trip visiting Las Cruces, White Sands National Monument, Ruidoso, Hatch, and Silver City, all in New Mexico. In this issue, I will cover visiting the New Mexico town of Las Cruces, (the crosses) or more formally, “The City of the Crosses.” The name possibly stems from a site marking the graves of travelers and soldiers.
Las Cruces has a long history going back to Spanish colonization beginning in 1598 when Juan de Oñate (searching for the seven cities of gold) claimed the territory for “New Spain.” This early influence is still evident in both the adobe architecture, culture and food of the area. Later, the first Mexican Empire claimed ownership, then the Republic of Texas, and in 1848 the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo established the United States as the owner of the territory. The town has its beginning in 1848 when the U.S. Army mapped out the town into 84 blocks and in 1849 was officially founded.
There are many good options for lodging in Las Cruces. One of the most interesting is the Ramada Hotel and Conference Center. This Ramada is an older mission style hotel, with an enclosed space that has trees and plants growing inside, which feels and looks like a quaint Spanish plaza.
One of the must visit locations while visiting Las Cruces is the old Mesilla Plaza. Mesilla Plaza is in the town of Mesilla, which is just south of Las Cruces. Mesilla and Las Cruces have an intertwined history. Residents who wished to remain Mexican citizens moved south, but a later land purchase made them U.S. citizens again. The Mesilla Plaza, with the well-known gazebo, is registered as a national monument. In days past, this was the center of the community, along with San Albino, the Roman Catholic church on the plaza. Additionally, the historic district around “Main Street” is a nice pedestrian shopping area, with a farmers market on Wednesday and Saturday mornings.
Surprisingly, for a city with a celebrated and embraced sense of history, Las Cruces also has one foot firmly planted in the future as it is also home to Spaceport America and Virgin Galactic. Both companies have launched several sub-orbital space flights.
There are several good times to visit Las Cruces. The Harvest Wine Festival is held during the Labor Day weekend and the Southern New Mexico Wine Festival is held over the Memorial Day weekend. Three of the largest celebrations are the Fiesta de San Ysidro (May) Renaissance ArtsFaire (November) and Cowboy Days (March).
For more on Las Cruces, history and events: