Thursday, September 1, 2011

The old hometown has changed

By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — Sometimes you don’t realize how much the old querencia has changed until you try to describe some of your favorite places and events to friends, like some good amigos who had moved from Mesilla about a decade ago.
I was planning their visit over this Labor Day weekend when I realized a lot of things I wanted to share with them didn’t exist a few years — or even a few months — ago.
There are lots of new people, places and things to catch up on, I told them, but realized they’d be most surprised by the Downtown Mall.
Or that’s what most of us are still calling it, which is why that’s how we refer to it most of the time in the Las Cruces Sun-News, though we are regularly admonished by various factions who’d like us all to refer to our new and improved corazon as Historic Las Cruces MainStreet Downtown. Or just Main Street.
“Eventually, I guess we’ll want to call it the Main Street Downtown Arts & Cultural District,” suggests Ceci Vasconcellos, director of the Doña Ana Arts Council.
Kind of a mouthful, but a Downtown Mall by any other name is still looking very good these days.
I suggested that my amigos come visit on one of our art tour weekends. How about making a day of it at Camino del Arte, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. the second Saturday of each month? It’s a great way to spend a fall day, after a visit to our expanded, award-winning (tops in state and nationwide contests) Las Cruces Farmers & Crafts Market. The market is spectacular in its newest incarnation, with hundreds of vendors and no ugly metal awnings to obscure the view. And you’ll be surprised to see how Mesquite is evolving into our own little version of Santa Fe’s famed Canyon Road, with growing numbers of unique artists studios and galleries.
Or come during the Ramble from 5 to 7 p.m. the first Friday of each month. Stroll, listen to music in galleries or on the street, bust a dance move, and stay for open mics and the Coyote Coffee House and maybe catch a play or special event at the Black Box, the Las Cruces Community Theatre or the Rio Grande.
Visit some impressive galleries and exhibits at the Las Cruces Art Museum and the Branigan Cultural Center. Before long, the Las Cruces Natural History Museum will join the quartet of city museums (don’t forget the Las Cruces Railroad Museum) located downtown.
Take a walk on the newly renovated north Main Street block and visit attractions both old (Coas Bookstore, one of the biggest and best new & used bookstores in the U.S.) and new, including the Las Cruces City Hall, some new galleries and the expanded Branigan Memorial Library.
My erstwhile Las Cruces buddies were amazed when I rattled off downtown dining choices that range from Hawaiian to Mexican, Southwestern-Continental and lots more. Think we still roll up our sidewalks at 6 p.m.? Let’s share a treat at S.B.'s Late-night Lunch Box.
Or let’s people-watch and — at last — dine al fresco. Remember where the Popular used to be? Let’s try pizza at Zeffiro’s/Popular Artisan Bakery, or a gourmet salad at La Iguana in the other half of what used to be our fave department store.
If it’s market day (Wednesday or Saturday), we can grab a green chile burrito, a fresh grilled green chile Swiss cheesburger, a delicate veggie spring roll, or our choice of several other treats, and have an impromptu picnic on a park bench or enjoy the last shady days of the big, beautiful Chinese Pistache tree on the soon-to-be renovated south end of the Downtown Mall.
Maybe we’ll mosey over to La Placita next to La Iguana and check out the progress of the grape arbor and the epic mosaic mural being constructed by Glenn Schweiger and his students and volunteers. Or see how the Las Cruces Downtown Partnership is coming along with a project to paint Downtown Mall buildings with a palette of warm, sophisticated Southwestern colors.
There are many delights in the heart of our city these days, and more are in the works.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at; (575) 541-5450. To share comments, go to and click on Blogzone and Las Cruces Style.

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