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Las Vegas, New Mexico…

Posted by on October 3, 2014

Today we arrived in New Mexico, epitome of the American Southwest.

OCTOBER 4, 2014.

NEW MEXICO HAS A LAS VEGAS, TOO. It’s a little town about 65 miles east of Santa Fe, and it’s as far as we were able to drive today from our last stop in Colorado Springs. The town is separated by the Gallinas River into two sections. The west part of the town is known as “Old Town” and the part of town on the east side of the river is known as “New Town.” Historically, the two parts of the city were separate municipalities…no longer. Today, they have distinct personalities and rival school districts, but that’s it.


The historic Plaza Hotel in Las Vegas, New Mexico.

THE OLD WEST IS STILL ALIVE. Las Vegas was established in 1835 after a group of settlers received a land grant from the Mexican government. The town was laid out in the traditional Spanish Colonial style, with a central plaza surrounded by buildings which could serve as fortifications in case of attack. Las Vegas soon prospered as a stop on the Santa Fe Trail.


Billy the Kid was one of the town’s most infamous residents.

DESPERADOES AND OUTLAWS. The arrival of the railroad on July 4, 1879 brought with it businesses, development and new residents, both respectable and dubious. Among the notorious characters were such legends of the old West as Doc Holliday and his girlfriend “Big Nose Kate,” Jesse James, Billy the Kid, Wyatt Earp, Mysterious Dave Mather, Hoodoo Brown and “Handsome Harry the Dance-hall Rustler.” A noted historian of the Old West once observed, “Without exception there was no town which harbored a more disreputable gang of desperadoes and outlaws than did Las Vegas.” The Spanish influence and wild west tradition is still alive in this town, which now also is home to a thriving native Southwest art community.


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