Southern Pacific

The historic village of Mesilla, six miles southwest of downtown Las Cruces via Hwy-28, was founded across the Rio Grande on the Mexican side of the border in 1848, after the agreement of the Mexican-American War gave everything north of the river to the United States. Six years later, Mesilla became (legally at least) American again, after the Gadsden Purchase bought the entire nearly 30,000-square-mile “Bootheel” region for $10 million.

And not much has changed in the past 160-odd years: Low-slung adobe buildings set around a shady central plaza include the landmark 1855 adobe Basilica of San Albino, an old jail from which Billy the Kid escaped in 1881, and a former Butterfield Stage station that’s now home to the popular restaurant La Posta de Mesilla (575/524-3524, daily lunch and dinner).