| United States|
5.5% (Feb 2015)
76.31 sq mi
| New Mexico|
| New Mexico State University, Massage Therapy Training Institute, Business Skills Institute|
New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum, Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park, Space Murals Museum
Las Cruces, also known as "The City of the Crosses", is the county seat of Dona Ana County, New Mexico, United States. As of 2013 the population is 101,324 making it the second largest city in the state, after Albuquerque. Las Cruces is the largest city in both Dona Ana County and southern New Mexico. It is the principal city of a metropolitan statistical area which encompasses all of Dona Ana County and is part of the larger El Paso–Las Cruces combined statistical area.
Las Cruces is the economic and geographic center of the fertile Mesilla Valley, which is the agricultural region on the flood plain of the Rio Grande which extends from Hatch to the west side of El Paso, Texas. Las Cruces is also the home of New Mexico State University (NMSU), New Mexicos only land grant university. The citys major employer is the federal government on nearby White Sands Test Facility and White Sands Missile Range. The Organ Mountains, ten miles (16 km) to the east, are dominant in the citys landscape, along with the Dona Ana Mountains, Robledo Mountains, and Picacho Peak. Las Cruces lies 225 miles (362 km) south of Albuquerque, New Mexico, 43 miles (69 km) northwest of El Paso, Texas and 60 miles (97 km) north of the Mexican border.
Spaceport America, which lies 44 miles (71 km) north of Las Cruces, has seen the completion of several successful manned, suborbital flights. The city is also the headquarters for Virgin Galactic, the worlds first company to offer sub-orbital spaceflights.
The area where Las Cruces rose was previously inhabited by the Manso people, with the Mescalero Apache living nearby. The area was later colonized by the Spanish beginning in 1598, when Juan de Onate claimed all territory north of the Rio Grande for New Spain and later became the first governor of the Spanish territory of New Mexico.
The area remained under New Spain’s control until September 28, 1821 when the first Mexican Empire claimed ownership. The area was also claimed by the Republic of Texas during this time until the end of the Mexican–American War in 1846–48. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848 established the United States as owner of this territory and Las Cruces was founded in 1849 when the US Army laid out the town plans.
Mesilla became the leading settlement of the area, with more than 2,000 residents in 1860, more than twice what Las Cruces had. When the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway reached the area, the landowners of Mesilla refused to sell it the rights-of-way, and instead residents of Las Cruces donated the rights-of-way and land for a depot in Las Cruces. The first train reached Las Cruces in 1881. Las Cruces was not affected as strongly by the train as some other villages, as it was not a terminus or a crossroads, but the population did grow to 2,300 in the 1880s. Las Cruces was incorporated as a town in 1907.
Pat Garrett is best known for his involvement in the Lincoln County War, but he also worked in Las Cruces on a famous case, the disappearance of Albert Jennings Fountain in 1896.
Growth of Las Cruces has been attributed to the university, government jobs and recent retirees. New Mexico State University was founded in 1888. And it has grown as Las Cruces has grown. The establishment of White Sands Missile Range in 1944 and White Sands Test Facility in 1963 has been integral to population growth. Las Cruces is the nearest city to each, and they provide Las Cruces work force many high-paying, stable, government jobs. In recent years, the influx of retirees from out of state has also increased Las Cruces’ population.
In the 1960s Las Cruces undertook a large urban renewal project, intended to convert the old downtown into a modern city center. As part of this, St. Genevieves Catholic Church, built in 1859, was razed to make way for a Downtown Pedestrian Mall. The original covered walkways are now being removed in favor of a more traditional main street thoroughfare.
The exact origin of the citys name is unknown. It is told that it was named after three crosses on a hillside marking the graves of bandits, echoing an old tale of the valley of the Los Hermanos. In Spanish "Las Cruces" means "the crosses." (Some have claimed an alternative meaning of "the crossroads" but this is grammatically implausible, as "cruce", the singular form of crossroad, is masculine and the phrase would be "Los Cruces".)
Both the Las Cruces Bowling Alley Massacre and the film A Nightmare In Las Cruces occurred in Las Cruces.
The approximate elevation of Las Cruces is 3,908 feet (1,191 m) above sea level.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 76.31 square miles (197.6 km2), of which 76.30 square miles (197.6 km2) is land and 0.1 square miles (0.26 km2) (0.25%) is water.
Las Cruces is the center of the Organ Caldera, the Dona Ana Mountains and the Organ Mountains are its margins. Its major eruption was 32 Ma.
Dona Ana County lies within the Chihuahuan Desert ecoregion, and the vegetation surrounding the built portions of the city are typical of this setting; it includes Creosote Bush (Larrea tridentata), Soaptree (Yucca elata), Tarbush (Flourensia cernua), Broom Dalea (Psorothamnus scoparius), and various desert grasses such as Tobosa (Hilaria mutica or Pleuraphis mutica) and Black Grama (Bouteloua eriopoda).
The Rio Grande bisects the Mesilla Valley and Las Cruces proper, supplying irrigation water for the intensive agriculture surrounding the city. However, the Rio Grande fills its banks only when water is released from upstream dams, which is seldom, due to continuing drought.
Prior to farming and ranching, desert shrub vegetation extended into the valley from the adjacent deserts, including extensive stands of Tornillo (Prosopis pubescens) and Catclaw Acacia (Acacia greggii). Desert grasslands extend in large part between the edges of Las Cruces and the lower slopes of the nearby Organ and Robledo Mountains, where grasses and assorted shrubs and cacti dominate large areas of this mostly rangeland as well as the occasional large-lot subdivision housing.
The desert and desert grassland uplands surrounding both sides of the Mesilla Valley are often dissected with arroyos, which are dry streams that often carry water following heavy thunderstorms. These arroyos often contain scattered small trees, and they serve as wildlife corridors between Las Cruces urban areas and adjacent deserts or mountains.
Major employers in Las Cruces are New Mexico State University, Las Cruces Public Schools, the City of Las Cruces, Memorial Medical Center, Walmart, MountainView Regional Medical Center, Dona Ana County, Dona Ana Community College, Addus HealthCare, and NASA.
Most of Las Crucess cultural events occur late in the year.
The Border Book Festival occurs the last weekend in April. It features a trade show, readings, film festival, workshops lead by local artists and writers, and discussion panels. The festival was founded in 1994 by authors Denise Chavez and Susan Tweit, and Chavez is the Executive Director of the festival.
The city hosts two wine festivals annually. The Harvest Wine Festival is held over Labor Day weekend, and features wines from New Mexico wineries; a grape stomping contest; several concerts throughout the weekend; food from several local vendors; and related shopping. The Southern New Mexico Wine Festival is held over Memorial Day weekend and also exclusively features New Mexico wines, local foods, and live music. Additionally, the Southern New Mexico Wine Festival features the University of Wine, short educational sessions which teach patrons about proper food and wine pairings. Both festivals are held at the fairgrounds just west of the city.
The Whole Enchilada Fiesta is held the last weekend in September. It attracts roughly 50,000 attendees each year. The centerpiece is the making of a large flat enchilada. The fiesta started in 1980 with a 6-foot (1.8 m) diameter enchilada, and it has grown over the years. In 2000 the fiestas 10 1?2-foot-diameter (3.2 m) enchilada was certified by Guinness World Records as the worlds largest. After the enchilada is assembled it is cut into many pieces and is distributed free of charge to the fiesta attendees. The enchilada is the brainchild of local restaurant owner Roberto V. Estrada, who directs its preparation each year. The celebration also features a parade, the Whole Enchilada Fiesta Queen competition, a huachas tournament, activities for kids, live music, an enchilada eating contest, a 5 kilometer road race, a one mile race, and a car and motorcycle show.
The Southern New Mexico State Fair, usually held the first week in October at the fairgrounds west of Las Cruces, promotes traditional agriculture. Boasting one of the largest Junior Livestock Shows in the state, the fair invites youth from six counties in New Mexico and Texas to participate.
Another popular fall event, the Hatch Chile Festival in nearby Hatch, NM, is held Labor Day Weekend to celebrate the new chile crop. The event includes music, food booths, chile cook-offs, chile eating contests, and a carnival.
The local Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) originated in Mexico, and is a celebration of the lives of those now dead. It is held November 1–2 by The Calavera Coalition, a nonprofit organization. The event is held at the plaza in Mesilla, and the Branigan Cultural Center in downtown Las Cruces.
Every year in October, Las Cruces holds a pumpkin harvest festival in Mesilla for the whole month of October. On Halloween, The Mesilla Valley Mall holds day of the walking dead where zombies walk around the mall.
The Renaissance ArtsFaire, founded in 1971, includes a juried art show and is put on the by the Dona Ana Arts Council each year in November. It is held at Young Park.
Cowboy days is another event held in Las Cruces at the Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum. The event is one of the largest events at the museum. The event is held March 8–9 which are two days of family fun. Some of the fun includes "children’s activities, cowboy food and music, cowboy mounted shooting, horseback and stagecoach rides, living history, gunfight re-enactments, arts and crafts vendors, roping, horseshoeing and many other demonstrations."
Cinco de Mayo celebration is held May 3–4. "Fifth of May" is Spanish for Cinco de Mayo which is the celebration of Mexican Heritage and pride that is celebrated in the United States and Mexico Held in Mesilla, NM. This event provides arts and crafts, and food vendors, Mexican music which brightens the night with fun.
Another major fun event is the annual 4 July Electric Light Parade, Celebration and Fireworks display held July 3 and 4th. The celebration begins with a parade and ends with a firework display. This event is held is downtown at the Meerscheidt Center. The celebration day begins with an Electric Light Parade and ends with a fantastic fireworks display. Held downtown at the Meerscheidt Center Complex. You dont need to go to the actual grounds, any high spot in view of the complex will provide a nice view of the fireworks, minus the huge crowd problems.
The Last Cruces Game Convention now known as CrucesCon, is an annual event where gamers compete in high level tournaments and free play games. The LCGC is a non-profit event with 100% of the proceeds going towards the community, equipment, and future events.
One last major event held annually in the Las Cruces area is the lighting of the Mesilla Plaza. Every Christmas Eve, the historic plaza of Mesilla is lined with thousands of luminarias, which are brown bags containing candles and weighted sand. The evening consistently attracts both locals and tourists.