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.