Its colorful past and tricultural heritage continue to enliven Las Cruces. The Pueblos, Apaches and Navajo, the Spanish explorers, farmers and ranchers, and the 19th century arrivals from the East Coast and Europe all contributed to the community's beliefs, strengths and lifestyles.
Although the Pueblos were often dominated and overpowered by the Spanish explorers, some of their ways endured, including traditional methods of cooking corn, beans and chile, and ancient techniques for creating pottery and weaving. The Spanish introduced animals such as the horse, sheep and cattle, and new crops including onions, barley and wheat. They immersed the native society with their Catholic heritages, which provided an interesting mix of religious beliefs and customs.
Another cultural blending interspersed the simple, flat-roofed structures of the pueblos with the elegant 19th century homes of the Europeans. Using modern materials brought by the railroad, the newer homes exhibited tin roofs, brick walls, pressed metal ceilings and cast-iron pillars. Both Spanish and English are spoken freely and easily in the area, and bilingual publications are common. The six native tongues of the Pueblos, as well as the languages of the Apaches and Navajos, enhance the tricultural mix.
The Mesilla Valley produces the best chile peppers in the state, which remains an esteemed distinction. The valley cultivates nearly half of New Mexico's 25,000 acres of chile pods that are harvested each year. At New Mexico State University, researchers grown, study and experiment with crops of chile peppers to develop new hybrids and flavors. Strings of chile peppers are often dried and then hung, creating a natural deep red adornment for a wall or a porch, especially at Christmas time. Want Chile Recipes?...Click Here.
Another esteemed produce of the area is pecans. Twenty some thousand acres are dedicated to pecan in Dona Ana County, with a total of 733 orchards producing 36,000 pounds annually.
Local shops and boutiques promote an intriguing range of authentic native goods. Hand-woven rugs and blankets, as well as baskets, jewelry, pottery, paintings and woodcarvings brighten the storefronts. But, perhaps the most remarkable shopping can be done at the open-air Farmers' and Craft Market on the Downtown Mall held each Wednesday and Saturday morning. Local produce, baked goods and a multitude of unusual crafts and knickknacks can be purchased throughout the year, especially during periodic, theme-oriented fairs. An "Easter Extravaganza" is hosted in the spring, a "Christmas in July" jump-starts the holidays, and a "Harvest of Fun" introduces the autumn season.
Other community groups such as the Nostalgia Club and the Mesilla Valley Sierra Club host antique and collectible shows at both St. Genevieve's Church and Dickerson's Event Center, and the Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce holds an annual Spring Business Expo.
The Branigan Cultural Center Complex is the headquarters for many artistic and entertaining endeavors. Located in the revitalized Downtown Mall, the Branigan Center has developed into two distinct museums. Proudly, Las Cruces now supports a Museum of Fine Art and Culture, as well as a Historical Museum. The Branigan building also houses a Hispanic dance troupe, dedicated to promoting and preserving traditional dances of Mexico and New Mexico. Jose Tena is the director and founder of the Ballet Folklorico de la Tierra del Encanto, created in 1979. Tena is an instructor for the Dance Department at New Mexico State University, and he also teaches younger students at the complex four nights a week.
Other youth and adult classes offered at the complex include oil painting, sculpture and pottery making. The Branigan Foundation provides scholarships to students who show artistic interest and financial need.
Click here for an online gallery of southwest art produced by Las Cruces area artists.
Other museums in the community include New Mexico State University Williams Hall, the Corbett Center, and Kent Hall, which displays archaeological and historical exhibits. A newer museum to the area is the Farm and Ranch Museum, an interactive museum that chronicles the 3,000-year history of New Mexico's agricultural and rural life. The museum boasts 90,000 square feet in size on 47 acres. An outdoor amphitheater seats 250 to 400 people for programs and an indoor theater allows for special presentations. Outdoors visitors can also view corrals of longhorn cattle, churro sheep and Jerusalem donkeys. This museum now also houses the Purple Sage restaurant, which serves up the unique tastes of New Mexico. Libraries include the Thomas Branigan Memorial Library and New Mexico State University's Branson Hall and New Library.
In addition, the campus also hosts a variety of other enjoyable diversions, including a film series and live concerts at the Pan America Center. Six annual performances by the Las Cruces Symphony are also performed at the Pan American Center between October and May.
Along with musical presentations, Las Cruces also offers a wide scope of theater performances. From September through May, the American Southwest Theater Company plays at the Hershel Zohn Theater on the NMSU campus. Downtown, the Las Cruces Community Theater performs year-round. This year, the Black Box Theatre opened, also located on the Downtown Mall, offering performances throughout the year.
The Las Cruces Chamber Ballet is also well received, especially for their annual performance of "The Nutcracker." The Las Cruces Community Concert and the Mesilla Valley Concert Band give superb performances throughout the academic year.
The Las Cruces Sun-News is a daily newspaper that depicts many of the acclaimed local personalities and places. Its Friday section, "Que Pasa?" highlights local happenings and events. The Las Cruces Bulletin is a free, weekly circular that also describes the town and its activities. Southwest Senior is a monthly publication designed to meet the information needs of the area's senior population. Readers who desire an in-depth and timely review of the entire state can browse through the beautifully illustrated New Mexico Magazine.Template