Las Cruces and Mesilla, New Mexico

Hi everyone,

After a relaxing and fun few days in Alamogordo and the White Sands National Monument, we headed down the road to Las Cruces, New Mexico to meet up with friends from years back, David and Marilyn. They graciously invited us to camp out in their rural farm yard for a couple of nights which we readily accepted. It was nice to be away from the sometimes crowded campgrounds where RV’s are parked cheek to cheek! Here we camped out in the middle of onion fields parked under the pecan trees.

For dinner that evening, David and Marilyn took us to their favorite restaurant, the very famous La Posta de Mesilla. It’s located in the village of Mesilla (pronounced ma se ya) just outside the city limits of Las Cruces. The food, atmosphere and sangria are excellent, a highly recommended stop when in this part of New Mexico.Las Cruces and Mesilla-6033

The village of Mesilla at one time was considered “no mans land” because it was settled by mostly families of Mexican heritage but claimed by both the Mexican and US governments. After the Gadsden Purchase in 1854 when the US bought land from the financially strapped Mexican government, Mesilla became a permanent part of the US. This purchase also provided a better route for a transcontinental railroad across the southern US border. Another interesting fact is that during the Civil war, Mesilla served briefly as the capitol of the Confederate Territory of Arizona.

The center piece of the Old Village is the Mesilla Plaza, designated a National Historic Landmark District. The most outstanding building on the plaza is the Basilica of San Albino, established in 1851. It’s interesting to note that the patron saint of this church is French, Saint Albinus of Angers (Albino in Spanish). He is said to have helped all those in distress and is credited with helping some French citizens escape from maurading pirates. When the area around Mesilla was sold to the US, the church was transferred to the Diocese of Santa Fe that was headed by a French bishop and likely influenced the selection of the patron of French origin. In addition, when the current church was built in the early 1900’s, it was designed and constructed with French architecture in mind.Las Cruces and Mesilla-6041

As we were wandering around the plaza, gawking at the old adobe buildings, we came across this friendly, talkative fellow trimming the trees in front of the Basilica. He informed us that the church was open and there was docent available to answer questions. He was very proud of his association with this church.Las Cruces and Mesilla-6036

So based on his recommendation, into the church we went. It is beautiful with an exquisite alter and stained glass windows. In front of the church is a monument to all members of the parish that died in military combat. Unfortunately, the list is long.Las Cruces and Mesilla-6029Las Cruces and Mesilla-6031Las Cruces and Mesilla-6032

As we walked around the plaza and the Old Village, we popped into a number of shops including an excellent used book store. We also made purchases of the locally grown pistachios and some of the local wines. Down the street, we couldn’t walk past the building with the sign below without going in to see what it was about. Well, it’s a gift shop with lots of Billy the Kid paraphernalia, none of which we needed or wanted!IMG_3264

To avoid either of us getting “hangry” we spotted Josefina’s, a fun and unique place to have a nice quiet, light lunch. The story is that Josefina opened her gate to all who passed by her home. The gate is still there and has appeared in many paintings and drawings of the Mesilla Historic Plaza. Unfortunately, I didn’t take a photo of it, something to remember for the next visit.IMG_3265

After our tasty lunch, we decided to explore the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum located near New Mexico State University in Las Cruces. There is a small fee to visit this well done living history museum, we played both the senior and veteran cards to further reduce the entrance fee.Las Cruces and Mesilla-6056

The weather outside was cool but sunny so we headed over to the outside exhibits first saving the inside for later in the afternoon. Besides that I wanted to see the cattle, sheep, and machinery exhibits since those things bring out the memories and experiences of growing up on a farm and practicing agricultural extension work. We saw some breeds of cattle and sheep that I’d never heard of before, mostly because they are unique to the desert environment. I’m sure this bull is used to having his photo taken by the many visitors to this educational museum but I felt a bit of a shiver when he gave me this “stink eye!”Las Cruces and Mesilla-6049

I’m happy to note that we didn’t see any of the critters depicted in the photo below at the museum or in fact at any place during our visit to the Southwest. But we sure did see a lot of these signs!IMG_3267

The machinery exhibits were interesting, I was intrigued by one home made machine made by a farmer to pull tree stumps out of the ground. It had a huge engine and was designed to pull a stump straight up out of the ground, it must have been quite a sight to see. Las Cruces and Mesilla-6055Las Cruces and Mesilla-6051

One of the main things we learned during our visit to the museum was how important access to water is to agriculture production in New Mexico. Some of that water came from deep within the ground, pumped to the surface through the use of windmills. We learned that the bigger blades, the deeper the draw water. Here’s a couple of examples.Las Cruces and Mesilla-6045Las Cruces and Mesilla-6046

Before heading to the indoor exhibits, we viewed this interesting sign describing the symbolism of the New Mexico state flag.IMG_3266

The inside exhibits depicted the development of New Mexico agriculture from ancient time, over 4000 years ago, to the 1950’s. I enjoyed the displays of restored farm equipment and the verbal and written stories of some of the people who settled in this challenging environment. Our visit to this museum was well spent and is highly recommended if you find yourself with a few free hours in Las Cruces, especially for those old farm boys and girls like us!IMG_3275

After a great dinner at the Cattle Baron Steak Restaurant and a pleasant nights rest, we were ready to head west. But we needed some work done on our travel trailer so we dropped it off early in the morning and took care of maintenance stuff while we waited. We had the oil changed on the truck, got haircuts, Donna visited a couple of quilt shops, and we did some shopping for the next leg of our trip.  We decided this is an area of the country we could spend some more time on our future trips to the desert Southwest. Las Cruces (roughly translated from Spanish as the crosses or the crossroads) is known as the “city of crosses” due to the crosses marking the graves of travelers and soldiers. In it’s early days, Las Cruces was much smaller than nearby Mesilla but when the railroad came through, the residents of Mesilla refused to grant right of ways to the railroad while Las Cruces donated their rights. The rest is history, Las Cruces thrived and has grown into a city of over 100,000 people. It’s got a lot to offer and it’s said that once you visit Las Cruces, you anticipate your return. True words!

I’ll leave you with this sunset photo of the silhouette of a pecan tree in David and Marilyn’s yard. We saw a lots of nice sunrises and sunsets on this two month trip but this was one of the best.IMG_3281

Next up, Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument.

Til next week, travel safe.