Las Cruces, New Mexico

Encyclopedia Article


The second-largest city in the state of New Mexico (after Albuquerque), Las Cruces is located at the southernmost part of the state, on the border with Mexico. The area surrounding the city was populated for centuries by the indigenous Manso and Mescalero Apache peoples, and in 1598 was colonized by the Spanish. The territory became part of Mexico in 1821, when Mexico declared independence from Spanish rule, and was simultaneously claimed by the Republic of Texas. In 1848, at the end of the Mexican-American War, the territory was declared to be part of the U.S. and the small settlement of Las Cruces was established as a center for local agriculture. The city grew significantly with the arrival of the railroad in 1881, the founding of New Mexico State University in 1888, and with the development of the White Sands Missile Range and Test Facility in the 1940s.

The name "Las Cruces" means "the crosses" in Spanish. Although the origin of the name is unknown, it is commonly believed that the city was named after crosses marking graves of explorers and soldiers that were found in the area.

Photo Credit: 

"The city of Las Cruces, New Mexico, with the Organ Mountains in the background, June 24, 2007" by Yassie is licensed under Public Domain.

Published Works: