Urban to Rural Transect, Taos, Geoff Dyer. About 2005. Courtesy of Town of Taos and Placemakers.

 

 

 

 

 

Mesilla (established 1850)

__Mesilla played a pivotal role in U.S. history during the 1850s and 1860s, when it was the largest settlement between San Antonio and Tucson. A formal ceremony on its plaza in 1854 marked the transfer of the Gadsden Purchase—encompassing parts of what became southern New Mexico and Arizona—from Mexico to the U.S. But after the railroad bypassed Mesilla in favor of Las Cruces in 1881, Mesilla settled into life as a quiet farming village. Beginning in the 1930s, it emerged as the leading heritage tourism site in south central New Mexico.

__The Mesilla colonists adhered closely to the planning patterns established in 1843 at the nearby village of Doña Ana. Settlement by an organized company of pioneers in a gridiron town with a plaza and church at its center is an approach outlined in the Spanish Laws of the Indies. The combination of a southeast-facing church and atrio forecourt had first emerged in the 1620s in the missions of northern New Mexico. The grids of square fields and city lots likely reflected the Mexican Republican embrace of Enlightenment rationality—the grids of fields and town lots rotated to the points of the compass.


__The original 1857 adobe church of San Albino was replaced between 1906 and 1908 by the current buff-brick Romanesque and Mission Style church. People began planting local cottonwoods, Arizona ash and American elms along the streets and around the hard-packed earthen plaza in the 1880s. A rustic sombraje gave way to a more permanent bandstand in 1932, painted with crossed Mexican and U.S. flags, and the date 1854 to recall the implementation of the Gadsden Purchase. Landscape architect José Yguado's 1976 redesign added cast iron benches and gas-lamp-style lighting, and brick paving not only for the park walkways, but also for eight-inch curbs and street surfaces, signaling drivers that they were entering a special pedestrian zone.

 

Further Reading

(in addition to The Plazas of New Mexico)

  • Frietze, Lionel Cajen, History of La Mesilla and Her Mesilleros, (1995, 2nd ed., El Paso: Book Publishers, 2004).

  • Steeb, Mary M., Michael Romero Taylor, and Anthony C. Pennock, The Las Cruces Historic Buildings Survey, (Las Cruces, N.M.: Dona Ana County Historical Society, 1982)
  • Taylor, Mary Daniels, A Place as Wild as the West Ever Was: Mesilla, New Mexico, 1848-1872, (Las Cruces: New Mexico State University Museum, 2004).

External Links