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Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Pancho Villa State Park & Museum

Another lovely day here in southwest New Mexico. Many of my friends and family back east hate my weather reports, but I can't help myself. We had sunshine and high 70s again today. A great day to take a drive and explore the area.

Thirty miles south of Deming is Columbus, where you'll find the Pancho Villa State Park & Museum. Columbus is the last town in New Mexico before you cross into Mexico. It is a small town, one that you would take no notice of, usually. But, here, almost a century ago, an invasion happened that took this sleepy little town by surprise. This park and museum are dedicated to the memory of those who died during the attack.

In the early morning of March 16, 1916, Pancho Villa and 400 of his men invaded the United States. The reasons behind this attack are not really known, but some guess that Villa was angry with the United States government's agreements with the Mexican government. It's also been thought that since Villa lived off the land, he may have needed to replenish supplies and livestock and figured this border town with its military outpost, Camp Furlong, would be a good place to do so.

Click on the picture to enlarge it.

Even though the invasion came hours before dawn, the death toll was relatively low. Just 18 Americans died - 10 townspeople and 8 soldiers. It's estimated that 90 of Villa's guerillas died and some were taken prisoner. Six of those prisoners were ultimately hanged while others served jail time and then released to Mexico in 1921 where they received army pensions.

The US responded immediately to this attack, sending thousands of soldiers to Columbus and appointed General John Pershing to lead them. Pershing led an eleven month expedition, known as the Punitive Expedition, into Mexico in pursuit of Villa and his men. While the US military was able to disperse the guerillas who had attacked Columbus, Villa was never captured. This expedition marked the end of the US Calvary as a horse-mounted army and began the use of mechanized vehicles.

This is a nice park; the campground has roomy sites with water and electric. The area where Camp Furlong had been is marked off showing where the original buildings were. Some of those buildings are still standing. The original rec hall is now used as the Ranger Station. The vegetation is lush and landscaped very nicely. The United States and New Mexico flags are flown on Cootes Hill which sits higher than the rest of the park; they show beautifully there. The exhibits in the Visitors' Center do a good job of walking you through the invasion and the subsequent expedition.

One question I do have and forgot to ask: why the heck would they name the state park after the guy who invaded the United States??? Also, Villa's invasion is called the last invasion of the continental US by another country. I beg to differ on that claim - I think 9/11 takes that title. But, I guess that really wasn't by another
country; it was an invasion though!

This was a great place to visit. It was a perfect distance for a morning adventure. And we learned about a bit of history that we had not known much about. For more pictures, click here.

Tomorrow is going to be another lazy day. We've really enjoyed our week here in Deming. It's been a low key time and that's nice once in awhile.

Until the next time . . .

1 comment:

  1. I do hate your weather reports!! :) LOL!! But I'm glad to hear you are enjoying your time traveling, I'm slightly jealous! Maybe you should come here and study for class and I'll travel all over the USA to wonderful places and I'll even blog for you! :) Tehehe! I LOVE YOU!