Las Cruces, New Mexico facts for kids

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Las Cruces, New Mexico
City
City of Las Cruces
View of Las Cruces with the Organ Mountains to the east
View of Las Cruces with the Organ Mountains to the east
Nickname(s): The City of the Crosses
Motto: People Helping People
Location of Las Cruces within Doña Ana County and New Mexico
Location of Las Cruces within Doña Ana County and New Mexico
Country United States
State New Mexico
County Doña Ana
Founded 1849
Incorporated 1907
Area
 • City 76.6 sq mi (198.5 km2)
 • Land 76.5 sq mi (198.1 km2)
 • Water 0.2 sq mi (0.4 km2)
Elevation 3,900 ft (1,200 m)
Population (2010)
 • City 97,618 (US: 285th)
 • Estimate (2015) 101,643 (US: 295th)
 • Density 1,326/sq mi (511.9/km2)
 • Metro 209,233 (US: 225th)
1,045,180 (El Paso–Las Cruces CSA)
Time zone Mountain (UTC-7)
 • Summer (DST) DST (UTC-6)
Area code(s) 575
FIPS code 35-39380
GNIS feature ID 0899715
Website www.las-cruces.org

Las Cruces, also known as "The City of the Crosses", is the seat of Doña Ana County, New Mexico, United States. As of the 2010 census the population was 97,618, and in 2015 the estimated population was 101,643, making it the second largest city in the state, after Albuquerque. Las Cruces is the largest city in both Doña Ana County and southern New Mexico. The Las Cruces metropolitan area had an estimated population of 213,676 in 2014. It is the principal city of a metropolitan statistical area which encompasses all of Doña 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 Mesilla Valley, the agricultural region on the floodplain of the Rio Grande which extends from Hatch to the west side of El Paso, Texas. Las Cruces is the home of New Mexico State University (NMSU), New Mexico's only land-grant university. The city's major employer is the federal government on nearby White Sands Test Facility and White Sands Missile Range. The Organ Mountains, 10 miles (16 km) to the east, are dominant in the city's landscape, along with the Doña Ana Mountains, Robledo Mountains, and Picacho Peak. Las Cruces lies 225 miles (362 km) south of Albuquerque, 48 miles (77 km) northwest of El Paso, Texas and 46 miles (74 km) north of the Mexican border at Santa Teresa.

Spaceport America, which lies 55 miles (89 km) to the north and with corporate offices in Las Cruces, has seen the completion of several successful manned, suborbital flights. The city is also the headquarters for Virgin Galactic, the world's first company to offer sub-orbital spaceflights.

History

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 Oñate 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.

Dona Ana County New Mexico Courthouse
Former Doña Ana County courthouse in Las Cruces

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. Genevieve's 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 city's 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 "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.)

The Las Cruces Bowling Alley Massacre occurred in Las Cruces.

Geography

LasCruces NewMexico ISS011-E-8410
Las Cruces as seen from space

The approximate elevation of Las Cruces is 3,908 feet (1,191 m) above sea level.

Rio Grande river
The Rio Grande flowing through Las Cruces

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 76.6 square miles (198.5 km2), of which 76.5 square miles (198.1 km2) is land and 0.2 square miles (0.4 km2), or 0.18%, is water.

Las Cruces is the center of the Organ Caldera; the Doña Ana Mountains to the north and the Organ Mountains to the east are its margins. Its major eruption was 32 Ma.

Doña 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).

Picacho peak with cotton
Picacho Peak northwest of Las Cruces with fields of cotton, which is grown in abundance in the Mesilla Valley

The Rio Grande bisects the Mesilla Valley and passes west of 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, 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.

Layout

Organ Mountains Near Del Rey Blvd
The eastern Organ Mountains are a prominent sight throughout the city.
LasCrucesNM WellsFargoTower
The 10-story Wells Fargo Tower, tallest building in downtown Las Cruces, originally the First National Bank Tower

Unlike many cities its size, Las Cruces lacks a true central business district. This is because in the 1960s an urban-renewal project tore down a large part of the original downtown. Most Las Crucens would agree that the modern "heart" of the city, where most stores and restaurants are located, is the rapidly developing east side. Las Cruces' shopping mall and a variety of retail stores and restaurants are located in this area.

Downtown Las Cruces
Downtown Las Cruces district at night

However, the historic downtown of the city is the area around Main Street, a six-block stretch of which was closed off in 1973 to form a pedestrianized shopping area. The downtown mall has an extensive farmers market each Wednesday and Saturday morning, where a variety of foods and cultural items can be purchased from numerous small stands that are set up by local farmers, artists and craftspeople. It also contains museums, businesses, restaurants, churches, art galleries and theaters, which add a great deal to the changing character of Las Cruces' historic downtown.

In August 2005, a master plan was adopted, the centerpiece of which was the restoration of narrow lanes of two-way traffic on this model portion of Main Street shown to the right. Main Street was reopened to vehicular traffic in 2012.

In February 2013, Las Cruces Mayor Ken Miyagishima announced during his "State of the City" address that a 700-acre (280 ha) park in the area behind the Las Cruces Dam was under construction, in cooperation with the Army Corps of Engineers. The area features trails through restored wetlands and serves as a major refuge for migratory birds and a key recreational area for the city.

Climate

Mainstreetlc
Portion of reopened Main Street

Las Cruces has an arid climate (Köppen BWk). Winters alternate between colder and windier weather following trough and frontal passages, and warmer, sunnier periods; light frosts occur many nights. Spring months can be windy, particularly in the afternoons, sometimes causing periods of blowing dust and short-lived dust storms. Summers begin with the hottest weather of the year, with some extended periods of over 100 °F or 37.8 °C weather not uncommon, while the latter half of the summer seeing increased humidity and frequent afternoon thunderstorms, with slightly lower daytime temperatures. Autumns feature decreasing temperatures and precipitation.

Precipitation is very light from October to June, with only occasional winter storm systems bringing steady precipitation to the Las Cruces area. Most winter moisture is in the form of rain, though some light snow falls most winters, usually enough to accumulate and stay on the ground for a few hours, at most. Warm season precipitation is often from heavy showers, especially from the late summer monsoon weather pattern.

Since records began in 1892, the lowest temperature recorded at State University has been −10 °F or −23.3 °C on January 11, 1962 – though only ten nights have ever fallen to or below 0 °F or −17.8 °C – and the highest 110 °F or 43.3 °C on June 28, 1994. The lowest maximum on record is 16 °F or −8.9 °C on January 28, 1948 and the highest minimum 80 °F or 26.7 °C on July 5, 1920. The wettest calendar year has been 1941 with 19.60 inches or 497.8 millimetres, although 1905 with 17.09 inches or 434.1 millimetres is the only other year to exceed 15 inches (380 mm). The only months to exceed 6 inches (150 mm) have been September 1941 with 7.53 inches or 191.3 millimetres and August 1935 with 7.41 inches or 188.2 millimetres. The wettest single day has been August 30, 1935 with 6.49 inches or 164.8 millimetres and the driest calendar year 1970 with 3.44 inches or 87.4 millimetres.

Climate data for State Univ, Las Cruces, New Mexico (1981–2010 normals; extremes since 1892)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 78
(25.6)
86
(30)
90
(32.2)
96
(35.6)
104
(40)
110
(43.3)
109
(42.8)
105
(40.6)
103
(39.4)
95
(35)
87
(30.6)
78
(25.6)
110
(43.3)
Average high °F (°C) 58.6
(14.78)
63.5
(17.5)
70.1
(21.17)
77.8
(25.44)
86.8
(30.44)
94.8
(34.89)
94.9
(34.94)
92.2
(33.44)
87.7
(30.94)
78.6
(25.89)
67.3
(19.61)
57.8
(14.33)
77.51
(25.282)
Average low °F (°C) 29.1
(-1.61)
32.7
(0.39)
38.2
(3.44)
44.9
(7.17)
53.7
(12.06)
62.4
(16.89)
68.0
(20)
66.8
(19.33)
59.9
(15.5)
47.4
(8.56)
35.7
(2.06)
29.1
(-1.61)
47.33
(8.514)
Record low °F (°C) −10
(-23.3)
-5
(-20.6)
8
(-13.3)
20
(-6.7)
27
(-2.8)
35
(1.7)
42
(5.6)
44
(6.7)
30
(-1.1)
20
(-6.7)
−4
(-20)
1
(-17.2)
−10
(-23.3)
Precipitation inches (mm) 0.51
(13)
0.41
(10.4)
0.22
(5.6)
0.29
(7.4)
0.40
(10.2)
0.66
(16.8)
1.53
(38.9)
2.22
(56.4)
1.33
(33.8)
0.94
(23.9)
0.46
(11.7)
0.77
(19.6)
9.74
(247.4)
Avg. rainy days (≥ 0.01 in) 3.6 2.8 2.2 1.9 2.4 3.6 8.3 9.4 5.9 4.8 3.1 3.7 51.7
Source: NOAA

Demographics

Census 2010 data

As of the 2010 census Las Cruces had a population of 97,618. The ethnic and racial makeup of the population was:

  • 34.3% White American
  • 2.4% African American or Black
  • 1.7% Native Americans
  • 1.6% Asian
  • 0.1% Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander
  • 3.5% Two or more races
  • 56.8% Hispanic and Latino Americans (Hispanics may be of any race)

Census 2000 data

Historical population
Census Pop.
1910 3,836
1920 3,989 4.0%
1930 5,811 45.7%
1940 8,385 44.3%
1950 12,325 47.0%
1960 29,387 138.4%
1970 37,857 28.8%
1980 43,377 14.6%
1990 57,866 33.4%
2000 74,267 28.3%
2010 97,618 31.4%
Est. 2015 101,643 4.1%
U.S. Decennial Census
2011 estimate

As of the census of 2000, there were 74,267 people, 29,184 households, and 18,123 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,425.7 people per square mile (550.5/km²). There were 31,682 housing units at an average density of 608.2 per square mile (234.8/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 69.01% White, 2.34% African American, 1.74% Native American, 1.16% Asian, 0.07% Pacific Islander, 21.59% from other races, and 4.10% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 51.73% of the population.

LasCrucesNM EastMesa
New development on Las Cruces' east mesa.

There were 29,184 households out of which 30.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 42.3% were married couples living together, 15.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 37.9% were non-families. 27.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.46 and the average family size was 3.05.

In the city, the population was spread out with 25.1% under the age of 18, 16.0% from 18 to 24, 26.9% from 25 to 44, 19.0% from 45 to 64, and 13.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 31 years. For every 100 females there were 94.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.0 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $30,375, and the median income for a family was $37,670. Males had a median income of $30,923 versus $21,759 for females. The per capita income for the city was $15,704. About 17.2% of families and 23.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 30.7% of those under age 18 and 9.7% of those age 65 or over.

Arts and culture

Annual events

Most of Las Cruces's cultural events are held late in the calendar year.

The Border Book Festival occurs the last weekend in April. It features a trade show, readings, film festival, workshops led by local artists and writers, and discussion panels. The festival was founded in 1994 by authors Denise Chávez and Susan Tweit; Chávez 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-diameter (1.8 m) enchilada, and it has grown over the years. In 2000, the fiesta's 10 12-foot-diameter (3.2 m) enchilada was certified by Guinness World Records as the world's largest. After the enchilada is assembled, it is cut into many pieces and 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. After 34 years, The Whole Enchilada Fiesta's final event occurred in 2014 after Estrada had retired.

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.

The local Day of the Dead (Día 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 at 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 a "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 by the Doña Ana Arts Council each year in November. It is held at Young Park.

Cowboy Days is an event held in Las Cruces at the Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum. It is one of the largest events at the museum, and it is held over two days in early March. 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."

A Cinco de Mayo celebration is held May 3–4. Cinco de Mayo ("Fifth of May") is the celebration of Mexican heritage and pride. The event is held in Mesilla and provides arts and crafts, food vendors, and Mexican music.

Another major event is the annual 4th of 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 held at the Field of Dreams Football Stadium.

The Last Cruces Game Convention, now known as CrucesCon, is an annual event where gamers compete in high-level tournaments and play free 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 locals and tourists.

Venues

Museums

New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum building
New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum

The New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum is state-operated and shows the history of farming and ranching in New Mexico. It is located just east of New Mexico State University.

The New Mexico State University Arthropod Museum and Collection contains approximately 500,000 arthropod specimens. The University Museum (Kent Hall) at New Mexico State University focuses on archeological and ethnographic collections and also has some history and natural science collections.

The Zuhl Museum (located in the Alumni and Visitors' Center) at New Mexico State University focuses on geologic collections, including the finest collection of petrified wood on display and a large fossil and mineral collection.

There are four city-owned museums. The Branigan Cultural Center examines local history through photographs, sculpture, paintings, and poetry. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places. The Las Cruces Museum of Art offers art exhibits and classes. The Las Cruces Museum of Natural History makes science and natural history more accessible to the general public and has an emphasis on local animals and plants. The Las Cruces Railroad Museum is in the historic Santa Fe Railroad station. It exhibits the impact of the railroads on the local area.

The New Mexico Veterans Museum, a new state-owned museum, was announced in August 2008 and is planned to be constructed in Las Cruces.

Symphony

The Las Cruces Symphony Orchestra is an 80-member orchestra, conducted by Dr. Lonnie Klein. The orchestra consists of 47% students, 17% NMSU faculty, 20% other local musicians, and 16% professionals from outside Las Cruces. The venue of the orchestra is the NMSU Music Center Recital Hall. The orchestra received attention with the world premiere of Bill McGlaughlin's Remembering Icarus, a tribute to local radio pioneer Ralph Willis Goddard, performed by the LCSO on October 1, 2005. The performance was taped and broadcast nationally on NPR's Performance Today on December 9, 2005 and on July 4, 2007 on Performance Today and on Sirius Satellite Radio.

Other points of interest

Several water tanks in Las Cruces have been painted with murals by Tony Pennock, including one at the intersection of Triviz Drive and Griggs Avenue. Multimedia artist group Keep Adding have a large mural titled Wave Nest on Picacho Avenue at the Lion's Park.

The Cathedral of the Immaculate Heart of Mary is the mother church of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Las Cruces.

Nearby points of interest

San Albino Church Mesilla
Basilica of San Albino in nearby Mesilla
Sugarloaf Peak, Organ Mountains, New Mexico (2007)
Sugarloaf Peak is an interesting feature on the east side of the Organ Mountains.

The following points of interest are within a few miles of Las Cruces:

The town of Mesilla, located 3 miles (5 km) to the southwest, is a suburb of Las Cruces. It avoided the urban renewal that Las Cruces went through in the 1960s and still has its historic downtown plaza. The Basilica of San Albino and many shops and restaurants are on the town plaza. The Gadsden Museum is dedicated to the family of Albert Jennings Fountain and includes artifacts from the time of the Gadsden Purchase, which made Mesilla a US possession. There is a visitor center inside the Town Hall. The Shalem Colony and Oahspe Museum commemorates the utopian Shalem Colony that existed near Las Cruces from 1884 to 1907 and the Oahspe bible that they used.

The Space Murals Museum in Organ has scale models of the Space Shuttle and Space Station Freedom and some relics of the Space Age.

Fort Selden State Monument is a former United States Army post, active from 1865 to 1891. Buffalo Soldiers were stationed here. Douglas MacArthur lived here as a boy (his father was post commander). The fort is located in Radium Springs, 13 miles (21 km) north of Las Cruces on Interstate 25. There is a visitor center.

White Sands Missile Range, 25 miles (40 km) east of Las Cruces on U.S. Highway 70, offers tourists a museum and a missile park. There is a refurbished V-2 rocket on exhibit.

Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument is a hiking area in the Organ Mountains. The entrance is on U.S. Highway 70 on the east side of the mountains, 17 miles (27 km) east of Las Cruces. Dripping Springs Natural Area is another hiking area, located farther south and on the west side of the mountains. Both areas are owned and managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

Prehistoric Trackways National Monument is the nation's newest national monument and is currently being developed just northwest of Las Cruces in the Robledo Mountains. This national monument protects 280-million-year-old fossil footprints and trackways discovered by Jerry P. MacDonald. These trackways include tracks from numerous extinct animals such as Dimetrodon and Edaphosaurus.

Parks and recreation

Las Cruces operates 87 city parks, 18 tennis courts, and four golf courses. A list of parks, with facilities and maps, is available.

Las Cruces holds a Ciclovía, a citywide event featuring exercise and physical activities, on the last Sunday of each month at Meerscheidt Recreation Center.

Sister cities

  • Mexico Ciudad Lerdo, Mexico
  • Germany Nienburg, Germany

Las Cruces Sister Cities Foundation is responsible for overseeing sister cities activities on behalf of the citizens of Las Cruces.

Las Cruces, New Mexico Flag of New Mexico
Suburbs
Doña Ana | Mesilla | University Park
Doña Ana County
New Mexico State University

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