Saturday, August 23, 2014

Make memories when you can



Aug. 24
Some of my contemporaries and I have been taking trips down memory lane.
Literally, in some cases. An increasing number of my relatives and friends have been embarking on sentimental journeys. My older sister Sally made a trip back to Pentwater, Michigan, a little lakeside town where she spent her first seven years (three for me).
Sally was amazed to discover how much was just as she remembered it, down to a moose head in a local emporium.
And I realized how much she, as the eldest of three kids born over seven years, is the grand pooh-bah of family memory storage, now that our parents, all but one of our aunts and uncles, and three of our contemporary cousins are gone.
I thought about all this during a recent discussion with a mother who was thinking about taking her tots to an upcoming event that sounded like a lot of fun. The busy working mom decided her kids were too young to be able to remember the festivities, anyway.
And too late, I thought to tell her: “Maybe not, but YOU will.”
It all drove me to my family photo albums for a look at milestones in our lives. I went through formal graduation and wedding portraits, and pages of photos of other significant passages in life: first birthdays and early newborn shots of ourselves, our kids and grandkids. First days of school. Parties and festivals and summer gatherings of cousins at our grandparents’ log cabin lodge on Lake Margrethe in Michigan.
Many snapshots conjured up more mundane events that have nonetheless become the stuff of family legends.
The day our new Britanny Spaniel puppy decided to consume most of a big wheel of cheddar. The butterflies Duffy would instinctively move into perfect point pose to bring to our attention.
The joys and trials and tribulations of raising our own little families.
That miserable but memorable night camping in Redwood forests on our otherwise totally wonderful trip with our young son to San Francisco. A trip to the zoo, a toddler’s first encounter with a friendly giraffe.
The pain of deaths and separations and divorces can dissipate, as the decades pass, leaving warm memories of the love and warmth and laughter, moments to share as new generations and new friends join your circle.
In this age of selfies and Instagrams and relentless recording of our lives and times, I hope those “clouds” we are all entrusting with our memories will reliably store everything until we want to access it. And that we do some downloads and printouts along the way, just in case.
It all goes by in a flash — eventually even the hard and at-the-time tedious stuff. There will be moments when you’ll wake up on a sunny morning and realize how much you’d love to repeat that walk to the bus stop with an old friend, or your son or granddaughter. What you’d give to spend an hour with your mom, grocery shopping, folding laundry, discussing life, sharing a hug. How much it would mean, even if the wilderness-loving genes happened to skip you, to share a canoe trip and cast a few lines with your dad, your kids and their kids.
The speed of life, the value of the most mundane-at-the-time family moments, is, ironically, something many of us don’t realize until it’s clear how rare and precious such moments can be, both now and in the future, when you want to share them with new generations.
I was fortunate, though the knowledge came with pain and loss, to realize in my 20s that the price of awareness is awareness. And a bit later, that there’s a big pay-off for willingly paying that price.
Or in the words of lovable classic movie character Ferris Bueller: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at dmoore @lcsun-news.com, @Derrickson Moore on Twitter and Tout, or call 575-541-5450.

Everything is better with green chiles...and genome mapping shows they might be more evolved that we are ...



Aug. 17 Las Cruces Style
Ah, chiles. What would life be like without them?
It’s hard to imagine, this time of year, when the Mesilla Valley is filled with the aroma of roasting green chiles. When we fill our freezers with what we estimate will be six months or even a year’s worth of the delectable, spicy pods. (Somehow, we always go through them faster than we think we will.)
Luckily, frozen, chopped Hatch chiles are as close as most of our nearest supermarkets, all year around. But I have learned that what we take for granted is still a luxury in most of the world.
In fact, I had a chile-deprived childhood, growing up in Michigan, where we mostly had to make due with horseradish, the chile of the Midwest. Yes, we had chili (with an “i” — the culinary concoction, not the chile pepper itself), but the low-octane red powder available then never quite managed to seriously spice our tame creations (usually ground beef, onions, canned tomatoes and red kidney beans, maybe with a green bell pepper thrown in).
My siblings and I loved mom’s chili nonetheless. It was as if we all knew there was something better out there, somewhere.
This, you understand, was during the dark ages, in the unenlightened times before salsa replaced ketchup as the the nation’s favorite condiment. Before there was a Taco Bell in every town.
I don’t think I encountered my first real chiles until I was in high school, at a Spanish Club banquet. And those were canned. It would be several more years before I would encounter my first jalapeño, and finally, taste my first green chile, fragrant and tattooed with char marks, fresh from the roaster. It was love at first bite.
When I first moved to New Mexico in the 1980s, and discovered green chiles were served everywhere, even at the most humble drive-throughs, I knew I’d come to my true home.
Since then, we’ve rarely been parted. When I lived in Jamaica, I got by with a large bag of powdered green chile (which I later realized was grown and packaged in my true querencia, right here in the Green Chile Capital of the Universe). Even native Jamaicans, raised on some formidable peppers themselves, agreed that my green chile made everything better, including jerk chicken, which was already pretty darn wonderful,
But “everything goes better with green chile” is my continuing credo, tested only once in the two decades since I’ve settled in chile paradise, when the Sun-News sent me off to a Sister Cities Fiesta in Nienburg, Germany.
I’d lived happily in the region as a teenage exchange student. I enjoyed my traveling companions and was happy to reunite with some old friends and favorite places, foods and brews. When I nonetheless found myself blue and listless after a few days, I realized I was suffering from green chile withdrawal. I found a Mexican native who grew chiles in her patio greenhouse and instantly perked up.
You may get a little taste of that, this time of year, when monsoon season cuts our sunlight a bit, and we come as close as we’ll ever get to knowing what Pacific Northwesterners experience during their winter months when endless drizzle triggers migraines and SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) for many. Do what you can to elevate your green chile level a bit, and chances are, you’ll be fine.
In 2013, Paul Bosland, a New Mexico State University Regents professor and director of the Chile Pepper Institute, announced the results of their international cooperative chile pepper genome mapping project: “The chile pepper has approximately 3.5 billion base pairs, which are the building blocks that make up the DNA double helix [homo sapiens have about 3 billion]. The Human Genome Project determined we have about 20,000 genes. Chile peppers have about 37,000 genes.”
Bosland then raised a matter worth pondering: “Whether that means chiles are more evolved than we are, I don’t know.”
But we do know something for sure: Everything’s better with green chile.
S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at dmoore@lcsun-news.com, @derricksonmoore on Twitter and Tout or call 575-541-5450.

Paul "Chileman" Bosland reflects on Chile Pepper Institute and more



Aug 17
LAS CRUCES>> Paul “Chileman” Bosland envisioned a place where the world could come to learn more about our favorite peppers, and where students, faculty and researchers could find ways to grow, use and even improve chiles.
Those visions have expanded and grown, more than two decades after the founding of the Chile Pepper Institute. And a new chapter will soon begin. Chiles will be an integral part of NMSU’s new Heritage Garden, a planned facility behind the Las Cruces Convention Center that is expected to become a reality in about two years, according to Bosland, an NMSU Regents professor and director and co-founder of the Chile Pepper Institute.
“We’re in the fundraising stage now. The Heritage Garden will start in the Fabian Garcia Seed Barn, and we hope to have chile gardens in a greenhouse so people can see chiles grown there all year around. Eventually, we may have demonstrations of beer and wine making and we may move the chile store there. And we have enough quality chefs all over the state that we could do pop-up kitchens for a week or a month, or for special events like homecoming or our annual chile conference, or to highlight different regional cuisines like African-inspired chile menus,” said Bosland, who feels the new enterprise, like the Chile Institute, has the potential to attract fans from around the world.
Agricultural tourism is becoming a greater draw, he believes, as fewer people have agriculture as a part of the lives.
“It becomes almost like a holiday, a special vacation to visit a farm,” he said.
Bosland, a California native who has become an international expert on chile peppers since joining the NMSU faculty in 1986, talked about his long, hot relationship with the divine pod.
He’s led efforts to discover, test and develop new and hotter peppers. Trinidad Moruga Scorpion Red, with a ranking of 2,009,231 SHU (Scoville Heat Units, a scale measuring the spicy fire of chile peppers), was declared the world’s hottest pepper in 2012, dethroning the previous champ, the Bhut Jolokia, or Ghost Pepper, the basis for Bosland’s marriage of what could be the two most wonderful food groups, chocolate and chile, in Dr. B’s Bhut-Kickin’ Brownie mix. Both peppers still rank in the World Top Ten Hottest Chile List, according to crazyhotseeds.com.
There’s more behind such quests than bragging rights, Bosland stressed.
“For poor villages or any culture with poverty, there’s a scale of economy involved, so an extract from fewer peppers can go a long way,” he explained, in uses ranging from seasoning to pepper sprays and remedies.
“I’ve been lucky to be here for a golden age,” said Bosland, who also led a cooperative international effort to map the genome of the chile pepper.
For a variety of research projects, he reports, having comprehensive information about the DNA of chile has already begun to bear fruit.
And speaking of fruit, there’s the old controversy that heated up again when the chile was declared New Mexico’s official state vegetable.
“Botanically, it’s a berry. On the plant, chile is a fruit. It’s a vegetable, usually, to most people, in the way we use it as a main course,” Bosland said.
He feels our region’s role in chile history is very clear.
“We’re building on the research of chile peppers since the famous horticulturist Fabian Garcia, the father of the U.S. chile pepper industry, began standardizing chile pepper varieties in 1888. The Mexican cuisine is based on something very different. What became part of American culture and our cuisine started with the introduction of the New Mexico pod-type chile, used in main dishes, chile rellenos, salsa and red powders. One type of chile pod makes all those products possible.”
He’s enthusiastic about new research focusing on the complexities and diversity of chile flavors.
Teaching has been the most rewarding aspect of his career, he said.
“Training students who go out in the world and become successful pepper growers and breeders ... they are my greatest joy and legacy,” Bosland said.
He’s looking forward to celebrating the glory of chile with a brand new chile fiesta: Project Discovery, billed as an evening of music, dance and the science behind the world’s hottest chile pepper, at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 19 at NMSU’s Atkinson Recital Hall. The event will include the debut of Frank “Pancho” Romero’s group Salseros Nuevos Mexicanos, performances by NMSU DanceSport, directed by Hannah Cole and NMSU Dance, directed by Debra Knapp, what organizers are boasting will be “the world’s greatest salsa bar” and “Discovering the Secrets to Hotter and Hotter Peppers,” a discussion with KRWG’s Fred Martino and Paul Bosland, who will also host a Q & A session. An after-party on the NMSU Horseshoe will feature “chile-inspired sorbet and kid- friendly gelato,” refreshments and salsa dance lessons. Tickets, at $15, $10 for NMSU employees and retirees and $5 for NMSU students with I.D. and kids under 18, will be available at chilepepperinstitute.org.
Program specialist Erica Trevino led a tour of the institute’s store, pointing out such exotic items as defensive chile pepper gel.
“With the gel, it’s more of a direct shot than the spray. We’ll also be getting our 2015 chile calendar in mid-September, with our personal pictures and recipes,” Trevino said.
The store features several variety of chile pepper seeds, posters, cookbooks and other books about our favorite pepper, T-shirts, polo shirts, a variety of chile-themed household and office accessories, frozen chiles and a variety of packaged food products including mixes, powdered chile, salsa and sauces. Among the best sellers are Bosland’s chile brownie mix and his book, written with Dave DeWitt, ”The Complete Chile Pepper Book: A Gardener’s Guide to Choosing, Growing, Preserving, and Cooking,” which will soon be out in paperback.
Trevino also led visitors down to 150 Gerald Thomas Hall to see the just-opened store Crimson Creations, where students offer a variety of home-grown produce, plants and exotic culinary offerings that currently include a savoury red chile sorbet available by the scoop or pint. To learn more about chile peppers and pick up some unique spicy treats for yourself and your friends, visit the Chile Pepper Institute Store in Room 265 Gerald Thomas Hall at the corner of College and Knox streets. Store hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. For information, call 575-646-3028,  or visit online at chilepepperinstitute.org.
S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at 575-541-5450.

Full-tilt Fiesta Season begins



Aug. 10
LAS CRUCES — Plan an extra siesta this weekend. Rest up and sleep in. You’ll need it, because SFT (Siesta Fiesta Time) is drawing to a close.
Get ready for Full-Tilt Fiesta Season (FTFS).
SFT has been compromised a bit in recent years. Once, we could count on substantial snoozing during our hottest weather, from Memorial Day through Labor Day, give or take some enthusiastic fireworks to wake us up on the Fourth of July.
But gradually, more and more fiestas have been creeping in, including June’s Pride Fest, New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum’s Ice Cream Sunday, and a host of fun festivities in our increasingly festive downtown area, including Downtown Las Cruces Partnership events at La Placita, Downtown Rambles at museums, shops and galleries the first Friday of each month, and special nighttime Las Cruces Farmers and Crafts Markets.
As more organizations remember that we have a big, cool, inside venue at Las Cruces Convention Center and a couple of months that are still less crowded by FTFS Superweekends, chances are more events will be added, and SFT will fade away. We are on the brink of full-tilt, year-around FTFS.
Chile is shaping up as our most feted object, celebrated in Hatch Chile Festival, The Whole Enchilada Festival,  ¡Salsa Fest! and a brand new celebration on Sept. 19, when NMSU presents Project Discovery, offering “music, dance, and the science behind the world’s hottest chile pepper.” Highlights include dance lessons, chile-inspired sorbet and gelato and a promise of “the world’s greatest salsa bar.” We’ll end 2014 and ring in 2015 with our first-ever chile drop.
And there’s lots more.
Butterflies! Beer! Ducks! Art! Music! Wine! History! Comics and pioneers! Playwrights and movies! Mazes! Día de los Muertos! The Renaissance!
Well, you get the idea. We have a lot to celebrate.
To help you plan, pace yourself and maybe arrange a family or friends’ reunion around your personal favorite fiestas, here’s our annual cut and clip list of some of the best of the last of 2014 FTFS. Rest up, gather your fiesta duds and get ready, fiesta animals.
2014 Full-Tilt Fiesta Season
Aug. 16: Butterfly Flutterby, Chihuahuan Desert Nature Park
Aug. 16-17: Tour de Beer, New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum
Aug, 21-24: Deming Duck Races, Deming
Aug. 23-24: Main Street Salsa Fest, Downtown Las Cruces
Aug 29-Sept.1: Labor Day weekend
Aug. 30-31: Franciscan Festival of the Arts, Holy Cross Retrea
Aug. 30-Sept. 1: Hatch Chile Festival in Hatch, New Mexico Wine Harvest Festival, Southern New Mexico Fairgrounds
Sept. 3-7:  White Sands International Film Festival, Las Cruces venues
Sept. 5-7: Las Cruces Comic Con, Las Cruces Convention Center
Sept. 6: Mark Medoff Gala, Las Cruces Convention Center
Sept. 6: Doña Ana Doll Club Show, Columbus Conference Center
Sept. 10:: Las Cruces Farmers and Crafts Evening Market, Main Street Downtown
Sept. 13: 26th annual Frontier Days, Fort Selden
Sept. 13-14: Diez y Seis de Septiembre Fiesta, Mesilla Plaza
Sept. 19: Project Discovery, Chile fest, NMSU’s Atkinson Hall
Sept. 20-21: St. Genevieve Church Fiesta & Celebration, Parish Hall, 1025 E. Las Cruces
Sept. 20-21: White Sands Hot Air Balloon Invitational, WSNM, Alamogordo venues
Sept. 26-28: The Whole Enchilada Festival, Hadley Complex
Sept. 27-Oct. 26: Mesilla Valley Maze, 3855 W. Picacho Ave.
Sept. 27-Nov. 2: La Union Maze, La Union
Oct. 1-5: Southern New Mexico State Fair & Rodeo, Southern New Mexico Fairgrounds
Oct. 4-5: Mesilla Jazz Happening, Mesilla
Oct. 4-5: La Viña Fall Wine Festival, La Viña Winery
Oct. 4: Sister Cities Oktoberfest, Mesilla Valley Maze
Oct. 5: Dress the Child Benefit Dinner, Hotel Encanto
Oct. 5: Rootin’ Tootin’ Rib Cookoff and Kids Ranch Rodeo, Mesilla Valley Maze
Oct. 11-13: Silver City Red Dot Art Weekend, Silver City galleries
Oct. 24-25: Ghosts of the Past, NM Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum
Oct. 25-26: Pumpkin Festival, Mesilla Valley Maze
Oct. 25: Zombie Walk, Main Street
Oct. 25-26: Centennial of Tortugas Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish
Oct. 31: Halloween
Oct. 31-Nov. 2: Día de los Muertos Fiesta, Mesilla
Nov. 1 & 2: Renaissance ArtsFaire, Young Park
Nov. 13-16: Las Cruces International Mariachi Conference, Pan Am Center, Las Cruces venues
Nov. 22-23: Home Grown: New Mexico Food Show & Gift Market, NM Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum
Nov. 23: Toys For Kids Motorcycle Parade
December Winterfest Superweekend TBA
Dec. 5: City of Las Cruces Tree Lighting
Dec. 5-7 : La Casa Bazaar, Las Cruces Convention Center
Dec. 7: NMSU Noche de Luminarias
Dec. 10-12: Our Lady of Guadalupe Fiesta and Pilgrimage
Dec. 18-21: Las Cruces Chamber Ballet: “The Nutcracker”
Dec. 24: Christmas Eve on the Mesilla Plaza
Dec. 31: New Year’s Eve Chile Drop, Mainstreet Downtown
S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at dmoore@lcsun-news.com, @derricksonmoore on Twitter and Tout or call 575-541-5450.


The secret life of cell phones



Aug. 3
They were clustered at the newsroom corral, grazing like desperate bulimic cattle on the open range (an easy-access socket).
I cut my cellphone from the herd, musing that I’d fully charged it at home last night. But by the time I’d headed for work that morning, it was reading about 40 percent.
I hadn’t touched it.
What had my cellphone been doing all night while I was sleeping?
Checking its Tout and Twitter and Facebook accounts? Adding new apps behind my back? Having intimate coded confabs with its cyberspace amigos? Upgrading, upgrading , upgrading?
And what’s up with that?
Before I headed out the door, I’d heard the 20-something TV weatherguy announce that “we’ll be upgrading from partly cloudy to mostly sunny over the next few days.”
Really?
I remember when my elders used to grumble about “planned obsolescence,” which apparently started sometime after World War II, when the “use it up, patch it up, make do” mandates of pioneer times and the Great Depression gave way to an aggressive consumer growth economy that seemed to apply to everything from procreation (thus, the Baby Boom generation) to designing major and small appliances to break down after what most considered an unacceptably short life.
It seems that few were disturbed when the same philosophy was applied to cars and clothes. From the 1950s to the mid-1960s, there were radical shifts in style, and keeping up with the Joneses meant frantically and frequently changing hemlines and trading in perfectly good cars to keep your status in the neighborhood. We were wanton in our desire for new stuff, and just as reckless about disposing of it.
A ditty that still occupies space in my aging brain: “Drink soft drinks in throw-away cans. Start today!”
Eventually, hippies and the Protest Generation nurtured an appreciation for all things vintage and a devotion to environmental preservation. The tide seemed ready to turn toward sustainability for good.
Then came the Me Generation, 1980s excesses, and the tech boom that has continued to escalate.
Planned obsolesce now seems like gentle coaxing compared to the relentless onslaught of mandatory upgrading. Once, we at least had a choice: we could repair our old TV sets, or a washing machine, for instance. Now, we don’t even wait for them to be broken. We are urged to upgrade, to replace a whole kitchen full of appliance that work perfectly well, simply to have them all in a matched set with stainless steel finish. (Same goes for counters: I like my tile, but if I ever want to sell my home, friends in the know tell me, granite is mandatory, at least for this decade.)
Woe unto he or she who clings to a 1.0. 2.0 or 3.0 anything.
I’m not against progress, mind you. If upgrades make things better or easier or more efficient, I’m a fan.
But recently, I’ve noticed all kinds of upgrades, usually added without my permission and often, particular in cable services, at considerable added expense. And what’s worse, many upgrades actually make things worse: slower, and with added steps that make some apps less efficient and sometimes sluggish or completely non-functional.
There is, alas, no inherent virtue in upgrades for the sake of upgrades. And I’m increasingly unwilling to spend my remaining years as a guinea pig for unproven stuff that could make us cross-eyed, carpal tunneled or give us brain tumors and cancer.
If you can come up with real improvements (my much-longed-for Star Trek badge gadget, for instance, that at a tap of the finger or voice command will do everything my burgeoning satchels of cameras, phones, lap tops and pads will do), I’m all in.
But until you get it all down, please don’t bombard me with upgrade options or worse, upgrade me without asking me first.
S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at dmoore@lcsun-news.com, @Derrickson Moore on Twitter and Tout or call 575-541-5450.

What ever happened to silly season?

Ah, chiles. What would life be like without them?
It’s hard to imagine, this time of year, when the Mesilla Valley is filled with the aroma of roasting green chiles. When we fill our freezers with what we estimate will be six months or even a year’s worth of the delectable, spicy pods. (Somehow, we always go through them faster than we think we will.)
Luckily, frozen, chopped Hatch chiles are as close as most of our nearest supermarkets, all year around. But I have learned that what we take for granted is still a luxury in most of the world.
In fact, I had a chile-deprived childhood, growing up in Michigan, where we mostly had to make due with horseradish, the chile of the Midwest. Yes, we had chili (with an “i” — the culinary concoction, not the chile pepper itself), but the low-octane red powder available then never quite managed to seriously spice our tame creations (usually ground beef, onions, canned tomatoes and red kidney beans, maybe with a green bell pepper thrown in).
My siblings and I loved mom’s chili nonetheless. It was as if we all knew there was something better out there, somewhere.
This, you understand, was during the dark ages, in the unenlightened times before salsa replaced ketchup as the the nation’s favorite condiment. Before there was a Taco Bell in every town.
I don’t think I encountered my first real chiles until I was in high school, at a Spanish Club banquet. And those were canned. It would be several more years before I would encounter my first jalapeño, and finally, taste my first green chile, fragrant and tattooed with char marks, fresh from the roaster. It was love at first bite.
When I first moved to New Mexico in the 1980s, and discovered green chiles were served everywhere, even at the most humble drive-throughs, I knew I’d come to my true home.
Since then, we’ve rarely been parted. When I lived in Jamaica, I got by with a large bag of powdered green chile (which I later realized was grown and packaged in my true querencia, right here in the Green Chile Capital of the Universe). Even native Jamaicans, raised on some formidable peppers themselves, agreed that my green chile made everything better, including jerk chicken, which was already pretty darn wonderful,
But “everything goes better with green chile” is my continuing credo, tested only once in the two decades since I’ve settled in chile paradise, when the Sun-News sent me off to a Sister Cities Fiesta in Nienburg, Germany.
I’d lived happily in the region as a teenage exchange student. I enjoyed my traveling companions and was happy to reunite with some old friends and favorite places, foods and brews. When I nonetheless found myself blue and listless after a few days, I realized I was suffering from green chile withdrawal. I found a Mexican native who grew chiles in her patio greenhouse and instantly perked up.
You may get a little taste of that, this time of year, when monsoon season cuts our sunlight a bit, and we come as close as we’ll ever get to knowing what Pacific Northwesterners experience during their winter months when endless drizzle triggers migraines and SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) for many. Do what you can to elevate your green chile level a bit, and chances are, you’ll be fine.
In 2013, Paul Bosland, a New Mexico State University Regents professor and director of the Chile Pepper Institute, announced the results of their international cooperative chile pepper genome mapping project: “The chile pepper has approximately 3.5 billion base pairs, which are the building blocks that make up the DNA double helix [homo sapiens have about 3 billion]. The Human Genome Project determined we have about 20,000 genes. Chile peppers have about 37,000 genes.”
Bosland then raised a matter worth pondering: “Whether that means chiles are more evolved than we are, I don’t know.”
But we do know something for sure: Everything’s better with green chile.
S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at dmoore@lcsun-news.com, @derricksonmoore on Twitter and Tout or call 575-541-5450.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

We have the state's best and most varied plazas



Santa Fe may have the state’s most famous plaza. But right here in the Mesilla Valley, we could make a case that we have the best and most unique assortment of plazas in the Land of Enchantment.
It may depend on your definition of a plaza.
According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, a plaza is “an open public area that is usually near city buildings and that often has trees and bushes and places to sit, walk, and shop.”
By that standard, we’re peppered with plazas.
If we’re going for tradition, Mesilla could give Santa Fe a run for their money.
The City Different has ages of bragging rights, of course, attaching to the honor of being the oldest capital city in the U.S. But I think Mesilla compares favorably. There is room for events like Christmas Eve, Cinco de Mayo and Día de los Muertos and Diez y seis de Septiembre, but it never seems to become an out-of-control nightmare.
Many visitors have told me Mesilla reminds them of Santa Fe in more laid-back days. It’s still adobe, old, historical and authentic, but it’s also mellow, beautiful, accessible and a fun place to gather with family and friends, for fiestas, special occasions and just everyday strolls, meals and shopping.
I think it’s time to acknowledge the ever-evolving Las Cruces Plaza, too. That stretch of Main Street from city hall to My Brother’s Place is indeed our plaza, in fact and by tradition, even if it’s a long, rectangular shape. Who says a plaza has to be square?
With music, food, street performers and colorful shopping, Main Street downtown is brimming with plaza spirit at the Las Cruces Farmers and Crafts Market on Wednesdays and even more on Saturdays when the street is closed off and the LCP expands to accommodate thousands of people. You’ll find the same spirit during Downtown Rambles at museums, galleries and shops from 5 to 7 p.m. the first Friday of each month, at fiestas like the Las Cruces Country Music Festival and at newer events like food truck roundups, night markets and Project Main Street events.
And speaking of La Placita, Las Cruces is establishing a growing plaza-within-a-plaza trend. The pretty little mosaic-floored mini-plaza has become a popular gathering place, as has the grassy patch near the St. Genevieve memorial right across from it.
And in June, the Las Cruces City Council approved a $5.397 million agreement with Las Cruces Community Partners to construct a 1.362-acre plaza on land now being used for the Bank of the West drive-up facility at the northeast corner of Griggs Avenue and Main Street.
We have an organic, innovative evolving plaza situation here, not surprising, perhaps, in the fiesta capital of the world.
There are other popular plazas in our downtown hood, too.
June’s Pride Festival reminded me of the pretty little plaza that is Pioneer Women’s Park. It has a gazebo, lots of shade trees, a lovely public building nearby (Court Youth Center/Alma d’arte Charter School for the Arts) and quiet streets that are perfect for staging a small walking parade. Or horse drawn-carriages, which have offered festive transportation for multi-plaza events like recent Winterfests, which once included the then-Downtown Mall, luminarias at Pioneer Women’s Park and festivities at Klein Park. (Klein Park, by the by, was a perfect “plaza” for 2014 Border Book gatherings, and a nice site for part of the Music in the Park Series.)
Other area parks have also earned plaza status.
Veteran’s Park on Roadrunner Parkway has become a plaza for veterans and those who love them. It’s a beautiful and dignified site for special ceremonies, family gatherings or quiet visits to remember those who have sacrificed so much in so many conflicts.
Young Park has become a kind of park-plaza hybrid, a laid-back gathering place for fiestas like the Renaissance ArtsFaire and Music in the Park concerts.
Las Crucens enjoy getting together and thanks to providence or good planning, or maybe both, we are blessed with many wonderful plazas to share.
S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at dmoore@lcsun-news.com, @Derrickson Moore on Twitter or Tout or call 575-541-5450.