Vaya con Dios

New Mexico dumped Arizona 152 years ago today when the Arizona Territory was established. (Since 1850 New Mexico Territory had included both present-day states.)

In March 1861, following conventions in Mesilla and Tucson, the southern portion of New Mexico Territory declared its withdrawal from the Union. The Confederate congress approved and CSA President Davis proclaimed the action February 14, 1862. While all this had no legal force in the United States, it probably did influence the decision in Washington to create Arizona Territory. Congress passed a bill and President Lincoln signed it into law February 24, 1863.

AZ-NM Territory

The Confederate Arizona Territory consisted of the bottom half of both present-day states (dividing the two at 34ºN, just south of Socorro and Prescott). The U.S. Arizona Territory set the division along the north-south border we have today (dividing at 109º 2′ 59.25″ W).

Too bad. With the Confederate division New Mexico would have been the Grand Canyon State and Arizona would have had the Deming Duck Race.

The capital of the Confederate Arizona Territory was in Mesilla (near present-day Las Cruces). The first territorial capital of Arizona was Prescott.


Those bags with sand and candles that are a New Mexico Christmas Eve tradition; the correct name for them is farolitos.

Often farolitos are called luminarias. Lumanarias traditionally were actually small bonfires.

Farolitos (literally “little lanterns”) replaced lumanarias (“altar lamps”) as towns became more densely populated. The purpose of both was to light the path to midnight mass.

Farolitos are the coolest Christmas decoration ever, especially when whole neighborhoods line their sidewalks, driveways and even roof-lines with them. (Electric versions are common and can be found throughout the season. The real deal are candles and displayed only on Christmas Eve.)

Buy some sand (for ballast), some votive candles and some lunch bags and bring a beautiful New Mexico Christmas Eve tradition to your neighborhood this year. Get your neighbors to join you. You could become famous if it’s never been done in your area. And the kids love it.

Why I Like Living in Albuquerque

Seven years ago, driving along Tramway across Sandia Pueblo, I was reminded of one of the best things about living in Albuquerque. I began to think, NewMexiKen you can live anywhere, why do you stay here?

There are a lot of ways to answer a question like that. One way is to make a list.

These aren’t the only reasons, and they aren’t in any particular order, but these are ten that came to mind.

  1. The weather, except sometimes in March and April. Four seasons, all of them distinct, none of them oppressive, or too long. And September and October — amazing!
  2. The food, red and green — and sopapillas with honey.
  3. The Rio Grande, though we fail to do anything with it. A historic river — third longest in America — how about a river walk with cafes and shops (tastefully and environmentally correct, of course)?
  4. The Plaza. Not as historic as Santa Fe, or even Taos. Still it’s always inviting and often filled with people celebrating a wedding at San Felipe de Neri. In other words, while a tourist attraction, it’s still “our” plaza.
  5. Santa Fe, Taos, Chaco Culture, Pecos, Valles Caldera and more, world-class tourist venues that are day trips for us.
  6. The sky, whether bluer than blue, or lit dramatically by sun or twilight, or with clouds, white or dark. Our sky is always something to behold, most gloriously at sunrise over the mountains and sunset over the volcanoes.
  7. The pueblos nearby with their cultures, feasts and dances.
  8. The Sandia mountains right here, rising a mile right above us (and the tram).
  9. The diversity of people. It’s a community without a majority population.
  10. The Indian land north and south of the city, the National Forest land (and wilderness) east of it. If it weren’t for the permanently undeveloped land that surrounds so much of Albuquerque, I fear it all would look like Phoenix.

And a few more.

  • The Buckhorn, The Owl and Los Ojos, the funkiest saloons with the best green chile cheeseburgers anywhere.
  • The Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge and the Festival of the Cranes.
  • The Sunport.
  • Living, as I do, at 6,000 feet above sea level.

And one visual aid.

The Wages of Sin Were a Little Low

New Mexico Magazine had this item for May 19th. It took place in 1893.

Clandestine leader Vicente Silva kills his wife north of Las Vegas and hires five henchmen to dispose of her body. Dissatisfied with the paltry $10 payment each, they also rob and kill Silva. Two years pass until the Silva deaths are known. Silva ran a prosperous business by day and at night he was the leader of a feared outlaw gang.

Why We Like Red or Green

Found this in a 1992 New Yorker article about chiles and New Mexican cuisine.

According to scientists who have studied the effects of fiery food, a very hot chili sends the nervous system into a state of panic, and the brain reacts by flooding the distressed nerve endings with endorphins, which are the body’s natural painkillers—a sort of friendly morphine. The sudden shot of endorphins is what transforms the pang of hot food into pleasure, and also what makes it considerably more tolerable after the first few bites.

The article, by Jane and Michael Stern, is not available online.

First posted here May 2, 2008.