Welcome to the Explore! New Mexico blog

Explore! New Mexico searches the state for interesting stories to tell our listeners and readers - and now our blog followers! We are currently producing a series of multi-media podcasts for the Las Cruces Convention and Visitors Bureau about interesting events and places to visit. You can view them at our YouTube channel. Be sure to visit our website where you can get even more ideas about where to travel in the Land of Enchantment.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Mile Markers Are Giving Me a Great Education!

Can't tell you how much I'm learning! Having to research and write 260 Mile Marker radio features this year is quite a challenge, but it's turning into a fascinating education. There are so many interesting people who live ... and have lived ... in New Mexico ... so many stories, some funny, some tragic, some dramatically violent. I'm working on a story about a sheriff who got into a gunfight with drunk cowboys who would not relinquish their guns. The sheriff was killed. One cowboy was killed, two were wounded, the fourth escaped unharmed. One cowboy was gut shot so he couldn't run. The other two got away, but later were captured. All three were executed. The sheriff's deputy became sheriff. Now that was pretty normal for New Mexico in the 1800s. What sets this story apart is ... oops. If I tell you now, will I have to shoot you? Listen to our Mile Markers on KRWG in Las Cruces, KENW in Portales, or KSJE in Farmington ... or catch up on our New Mexico tales at our web site ... explorenewmexico.biz. We post all the Mile Marker stories the week after they've been broadcast. Have fun. I certainly am.

Bud Russo

Doña Ana Poised For Future as Tourist Destination

The wagons churned along the Rio Grande over El Camino Real, advancing only a dozen miles or so each day. Travelers stopped at camps or parajes between Mexico City and Santa Fe. Most of those camps are distant memories, lost in the shifting sands of the desert and the changing course of the river. One of the camps has persisted into the 21st century. We know it as the village of Doña Ana.

On January 15, State Senator Mary Jane Garcia hosted the grand opening of the De La O Visitors Center in Doña Ana, culminating many years’ work of the many descendants who claim the name De La O and creating a focal point for community activities and tourists.

During the festivities, Sen. Garcia asked a show of hands of those who have come from the original De La O family. The senator is cousin to many of the village’s residents. She pointed to one man and asked if he was De La O, to which he concurred. Said the senator, “I’ve known you 20 years and didn’t know you were De La O. Hello, cousin!”

Those attending the grand opening included Las Cruces Mayor Ken Miyagishima, several Las Cruces City Councillors,

representatives of Doña Ana County government, and other dignitaries. Unlike most other similar events, this one had the festive appeal of a family reunion.

Doña Ana dates to the late 17th century. The village, if if could have been called that at the time, was abandoned throughout most of the 18th century. According to Robert Julyan in his book, “The Place Names of New Mexico,” the governor of Chihuahua created the Doña Ana Bend Colony Grant to alleviate crowding in El Paso. But it was not settled until 1843 when Bernabé Montoya led thirty-three settlers to the site. They named their settlement after the semi-legendary Doña Ana, who may have been Ana Robledo who had fled south during the Pueblo Revolt, or Doña Ana María de Córdoba, whose ranch was nearby.

Whoever the name honored, settlers were determined to remain in their village, to farm and to thrive. El Camino Real ran through the heart of the village. It brought not only travelers and trade but also bandidos. It was also prey to

marauding bands of Apache. But it persisted.

Between 1845 and 1850, a decade before the village of Las Cruces was laid out, villagers built a church. It was about a hundred feet long and twenty feet wide. Its adobe walls were three feet thick and its windows high to prevent Indians and bandits from shooting at people sequestered there. Candles in chandeliers and sconces between the Stations of the Cross dimly lit the church. A single clerestory window above the nave close to the apse let in the early morning light to illuminate the altar during Mass.

During the Civil War, De La O opened a saloon about a hundred yards south of the church. Just north of the saloon, Werthheim opened a general store, and north of that was the residence of the Cavello family.

Those buildings have persisted into the present time, but barely. In the late 1970s, the church was about to be condemned and demolished. The adobe buildings down the street had faired better, perhaps because of their boxy single-story construction. The structures seemed destined to melt into history just as old adobe returns to the earth.

But the community, led by Sen. Garcia, had other plans. Over a decade, Doña Anans, including some at-risk youth, rebuilt the church. They made more than 17,000 adobe bricks to reconstruct one wall which had collapsed and to shore up other parts of the building. Using a design of local artist Jeannie De Lo O Carbajal, who designed the art adorning the I-25 underpass at Highway 320, artisans in Mexico built a new altar patterned on the original which had deteriorated too far to reclaim. They retained the church’s original vigas and corbels and conserved the original French paintings of the fourteen Stations of the Cross. The church today is used for special occasions, including baptisms and marriages.

Then restoration work shifted down Camino Real, which for nearly two decades has been called Cristo Rey, to the old saloon and adjacent buildings.

The L-shaped De La O saloon has been restored with two meeting rooms and the mirror-backed bar, just as it might have looked 150 years ago. Its adobe has been painted white and its walls hung with historical scenes of the village of two centuries ago. Behind the building is a brick placita with fountain, stone planters, and shade trees. The community now has a facility for activities, celebrations, and fiestas.

As funds permit, the Werthheim building will be restored as a mercantile museum and the Cavello house will become the site of a farmers’ market.

For those who think Camino Real is nothing more than two ruts in the desert, come to the village of Doña Ana and see what family can do.

If you’d like to see the restored historic buildings and walk along part of the original royal highway, take Exit 9 off I-25 and turn south on Thorpe Road (NM-320). At the modern Catholic church, Our Lady of Purification, turn left onto Dusty Lane, which bends around the church and becomes Cristo Ray Street.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

100 Best New Mexico Books

The list of the 100 best New Mexico books was announced last week in anticipation of the State of New Mexico Centennial in 2012. I was surprised to see that I had only read seven of the books and also surprised that books I had enjoyed ages ago had a New Mexico connection.

Some are on my bookshelf awaiting quiet time to enjoy them. I noted that I have met four of the authors: the late, great Tony Hillerman (I am honored to have briefly met him and equally honored to now be able to call his daughter Anne a friend), Michael McGarrity (who I enjoyed interviewing for a radio show), and fellow Mesilla Valley residents Linda Harris and Denise Chavez. Another connection is that my husband, Brian, is a relative of General Lew Wallace, author of Ben Hur and one-time NM governor. Surprisingly, his book is not one that I have read, but of course I've seen the movie! We recently donated some books from Wallace's personal library to the New Mexico History Museum.

Perusing the list has encouraged me to make it a goal to read all 100 of them. Notice that I haven't given myself a time limit! I've put the books I've read in italics so you can see where I'm starting. Bud will also be reading some of them - he has read some I have not and vice versa. I'm not sure he's on board with going for all 100! Then we'll share our thoughts about them from time to time. Please feel free to share your reactions to those you've read - and other New Mexico books you enjoy!

- Posted by Cheryl Fallstead



"Bless Me, Ultima" - Rudolfo Anaya

"A Thief of Time" - Tony Hillerman

"Ben Hur" - Lew Wallace

"Death Comes for the Archbishop" - Willa Cather

"First Blood" - David Morrell

"House Made of Dawn" - N. Scott Momaday

"Lamy of Santa Fe" - Paul Horgan

"Milagro Beanfield War" - John Nichols

"Red Sky at Morning" - Richard Bradford

"The Rounders" - Max Evans


"Alburquerque" - Rudolfo Anaya

"All the Pretty Horses" - Cormac McCarthy

"The Authentic Life of Billy the Kid" - Pat Garrett

"Black Mesa Poems" - Jimmy Santiago Baca

"Black Range Tales" - James A. McKenna

"The Blessing Way" - Tony Hillerman

"Blood and Thunder" - Hampton Sides

"Bloodville" - Don Bullis

"Bluefeather Fellini" - Max Evans

"Brothers of Light, Brothers of Blood" - Marta Weigle

"But Time and Chance" - Fray Angelico Chávez

"The Centuries of Santa Fe" - Paul Horgan

"Ceremony" - Leslie Marmon Silko

"Chaco Banyon: Sheriff of Lordsburg" - Fred Schmidt

"Chaco Canyon" - Robert Hill Lister

"Charlie Carrillio: Tradition & Soul" - Barbe Awalt and Paul Rhetts

"Coronado, Knight of Pueblos and Plains" - Eugene Bolton

"Cuentos" - Rudolfo Anaya

"Curse of the ChupaCabra" - Rudolfo Anaya

"Dance Hall of the Dead" - Tony Hillerman

"The Day It Snowed Tortillas" - Joe Hayes

"Delight Makers" - Aldolph Bandelier

"Ditch Rider" - Judith Van Gieson

"The Education of Little Tree" - Forrest Carter

"Eight Rattles and a Button" - Merle Blinn Brown

"El Gringo: New Mexico & Her People" - Josiah Gregg

"Face of an Angel" - Denise Chavez

"Fire on the Mountain" - Edward Abbey

"Forgotten People" - George I. Sánchez

"Great River" - Paul Horgan

"Hatchet" - Gary Paulsen

"Homesteading on Grasshopper Flats" - Etta Rose Knox

"The House at Otowi Bridge" - Peggy Pond Church

"I Fought with Geronimo" - Jason Betzinez & Wilbur Sturtevant

"An Illustrated History of New Mexico" - Thomas Chavez

"In the Days of Victorio" - Eve Ball

"Jemez Spring" - Rudolfo Anaya

"John Gaw Meem" - Bainbridge Bunting

"Journeys of Faith" - Lee Priestley

"Kiva, Cross, & Crown" - John Kessell

"History of La Mesilla & Her Mesilleros" - Lionel Cajen Frietze

"Land of Poco Tiempo" - Charles Lummis

"Las Cruces" - Linda G. Harris

"The Last Conquistador" - Marc Simmons

"The Leading Facts of New Mexican History" - Ralph Emerson Twitchell

"The Legend of La Llorona" - Rudolfo Anaya

"Lottie Deno" - J. Marvin Hunter

"Maria" - Alice Marriott

"Mayordomo" - Stanley Crawford

"Mimbres Painted Pottery" - J.J. Brody

"The Missions of New Mexico, 1776" - Fray Francisco Dominguez, edited by Adams & Chávez

"My Penitente Land" - Fray Angelico Chavez

"New Mexico: A Pageant of Three Peoples" - Erna Fergusson

"New Mexico Biographical Dictionary, 1540-2000" - Don Bullis

"New Mexico Style" - Nancy Hunter Warren

"New Mexico Tinwork" - Lane Coulter

"No Life for a Lady" - Agnes Morley Cleaveland

"Nobody's Horses" - Don Hoglund

"Origins of New Mexico Families" - Fray Angelico Chavez

"People of the Valley" - Frank Waters

"The Place Names of New Mexico" - Robert Julyan

"Popular Arts of Spanish New Mexico" - E. Boyd

"Pueblo Nations" - Joe Sando

"Riders to Cibola" - Norman Zollinger

"Rio Grande Fall" - Rudolfo Anaya

"River of Traps" - William duBoys & Alex Harris

"Roadside Geology of New Mexico" - Halka Chronic

"Sabino's Map" - Donald Usner "Saints of the Pueblos" - Charles M. Carrillo

"Santa Fe Design" - Elmo Baca

"Santa Fe on Foot" - Elaine Pinkerton Coleman

"Santa Fe Style" - Christine Mather "Santos & Saints" - Thomas J. Steele, S.J

"Scavengers" - Steven Havill

"Shaman Winter" - Rudolfo Anaya

"Slash Ranch Hounds" - Dub Evans

"Stolen Gods" - Jake Page

"Tularosa" - Michael McGarrity

"Villages of Hispanic New Mexico" - Nancy Hunter Warren

"Visions Underground" - Lois Manno

"When Jesus Came, the Corn Mothers Went Away" - Ramon Gutierrez

"The Whole Damned World" - Martha Shipman Andrews

"Wind Leaves No Shadow" - Ruth Laughlin

"Winter in Taos" - Mabel Dodge Luhan

"The Wolf Path" - Judith Van Gieson

"The Woman at Otowi Crossing" - Frank Waters

"Works on Paper" - Georgia O'Keeffe & Barbara Haskell "Zia Summer" - Rudolfo Anaya

"Zuni Pottery" - Marian Rodee

Monday, January 24, 2011

Want to be on TV? Go to Sparky's!

Perhaps the phrase “If you build it, they will come” applies to restaurants as well as baseball fields. Josie and Teako Nunn have spent the last three years building their business, Sparky’s Burgers, Barbecue, and Espresso, in Hatch, New Mexico. The delicious food and fun atmosphere have brought it to the attention of a number of media outlets. It was recently mentioned in Sunset magazine with a larger article coming this fall, and featured in segments on KRWG-TV Newsmakers, Explore! New Mexico’s radio show, and Spicy RV, along with rave reviews in newspapers and on lots of travel and food websites.

Recently, they were contacted by the producers of an upcoming Discovery Channel show, “Road Eats.” A film crew will descend upon the funky eatery on Wednesday, February 2, from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. to film the staff and diners. This is a day the restaurant is usually closed, so Sparky’s fans are encouraged to take time to come enjoy a meal that day and perhaps be able to see themselves on the Discovery Channel show when it is aired.

Sparky’s has received attention lately not only for its delicious smoked barbecue ribs, pulled pork, brisket, and green chile cheeseburgers (a must in the chile capital of the world!), but even international news coverage for the oversized statues that grace the building’s grounds - and the roof. Visitors pose with Colonel Sanders, who sits on a bench, or Ronald McDonald, and snap photos of the A & W Root Beer family that is perched on the roof. A giant rooster sits across the street pointing the way to the barbecue joint, which also features a wide variety of coffee drinks and shakes, with fun names like “Stellar Madness” and “Hot Chocolate Rocket.”

Sparky’s was recently expanded to allow room for more patrons to dine and to add a stage. The Nunns wanted to offer live music to make the atmosphere even more festive and engaging, so now on Sundays they have bands playing while folks enjoy their barbecue and coffee. Music is performed Sundays from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. in the Sparky’s Green Chile Room.

“It’s been fun doing this. Sparky’s started as a hobby and we even thought we could run the restaurant part-time, but it has turned into a full-time adventure,” says Josie Nunn.

Regular restaurant hours are Monday, Thursday, and Sunday from 10:30 a.m. until 7 p.m. On Friday and Saturday, they stay open until 7:30 p.m. They are closed Tuesday and Wednesday, except when Discovery Channel comes calling. The restaurant is located at 115 Franklin Street in Hatch. For more information on Sparky’s Burgers, Barbecue and Espresso, check their website at www.sparkysburgers.com.

- Posted by Cheryl Fallstead