At the valley s center is Doña Ana County, with its 163,000 residents, and Las Cruces, the state s second largest city with a population of nearly 80,000. The city lies 42 miles north of El Paso and 50 miles from the Mexican border.
Las Cruces has been recognized by national media as a top city to do business. It also has been tagged as an attractive place to retire and enjoy a good quality of life.
The city celebrated its 150th anniversary in 1999.
The valley is a diverse place, with strong Hispanic presence. The 2002 census estimates Doña Ana County s demographic makeup at 63.4 percent Hispanic.
In 1598, working on the behalf of the King of Spain, Don Juan de Oñate and his men made their way up from Mexico through the Great Pass of the North (modern day El Paso) through the Mesilla Valley. The route eventually became known at the Camino Real and offered travel from Mexico to Santa Fe.
By the mid-19th century, southern New Mexico became a stop for travelers.
In April 1881, the first train arrived in the valley, which brought on a new prosperity.
The valley is surrounded by the Organ Mountains, where Dripping Springs housed people suffering from tuberculosis and was a destination spot.
While New Mexico was still a territory, 23 years before it was to become the 47th state of the United States, the settlers of the valley recognized the need for an advanced educational system and created the New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanics Arts. In 1960, the name was formally changed to New Mexico State University.
NMSU is the area s four-year institute, while the Doña Ana Branch Community College offers two-year associate degrees. In Spring 2003, NMSU s main campus had 15,202 students.
The valley is home to one of the state s most profitable businesses agriculture.
Agriculture exports rank behind tourism as the state s top moneymaker, with pecans, onions and chile. Doña Ana County ranks second in the state in agricultural production.
The area experiences 350 days of sunshine a year. During the summer the temperature reaches the high 90s and during the fall the temperature reaches the mid-70s to low 80s. Winters are mild with daytime temperatures rarely below freezing.
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