I've been trying to get back to my roots, lately, so, knowing that my wife and I would be going to Santa Fe this summer, we planned a special day trip, to the small town of Las Vegas, New Mexico. No bright lights or casinos in this town, but, it's a special, little place; homey and picturesque--literally, as you've probably seen it in films and TV shows, like, "Longmire," and the Coen Brothers film, "No Country for Old Men."
It also happens to be the birthplace of my father, my grandmother, and both of my great grandparents, so, I definitely wanted to check it out.
Las Vegas, New Mexico is located about an hour east of Santa Fe. We happened to arrive just as the "Fiestas de Las Vegas," a week of celebrating with food, music, and a parade, all leading up to the July 4th weekend, was getting underway.
Las Vegas is not only a little slice of modern day, small town America, it is also unique in that, per capita, it has the most amount of buildings on the National Register of Historic Places (over 900!) Many of them in very good condition, and still in use, like this one...
The most famous, historic building in Las Vegas, though, is arguably, the Plaza Hotel...(located, of course, in the town plaza).
Built in 1882, as an upmarket hotel, for the then booming town of Las Vegas, which already had a railroad station about a mile away, for the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway. The hotel was built by a small group of businessmen at the time, led by a Don Begnino Romero, whose family was instrumental in Las Vegas' development, and whose name can still be seen on the old Firehouse in Las Vegas, just blocks from the Plaza Hotel...
His brother, Eugenio Romero, established the first volunteer fire department (above), in New Mexico, years before it officially became a State, in 1912.
The Plaza Hotel (inside lobby, shown above), was also the place where Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders had their first reunion, and, announced his presidential candidacy.
You might also recognize the lobby and the stairs of the Plaza Hotel from the Coen Brothers movie, "No Country for Old Men"...
The other reason I'm obsessed with this place, besides the history, and tv shows and movies that have been filmed here, is a personal one. My great grandmother, Lucia, actually worked there! In the 1930's, she was a maid at the hotel and worked the night shift. Unfortunately, I never met my great-grandmother, as she passed on long before I was born, but, was told this by my grandmother, Isabel, who, as a young girl, had to accompany my great-grandmother, a widow, as she could not find anyone to mind her young daughter (my future grandmother) while she was away at work.
When I was a kid, I remember my grandmother telling me stories of the old, haunted, Plaza hotel where she would help her mother work. For years, I thought these stories were just that, but, after visiting there, walking the old hallways there, and talking to some of the staff, the stories of the hotel being haunted, were, indeed, confirmed, including a ghost that still roams the halls.
By the way, in the hallways of the hotel (which definitely have a bit of a spooky vibe), I came upon these hand painted murals, like this one, filled with owls....
My grandmother, as well as my dad, have always been obsessed with owls, as have I (thus, naming my business after a character with "owl" in its name), and, like me, always collected owl-related items. So, it was weird to see these somewhere she spent a lot of time in, as a kid. Coincidence???...(probably, but, they were cool to see, anyway).
Right across the street from the Plaza Hotel, you might recognize the front door to the Sheriff's office: Sheriff Walt Longmire, that is, from one of my favorite Netflix series, "Longmire," (and the series of novels of the same name). Yes, the door says, "Absaroka County, Durant, Wyoming," but the show is actually filmed in New Mexico, and quite a few scenes, in the Las Vegas area, including the plaza.
You might also recognize the plaza in Las Vegas from a scene in the movie, "Easy Rider," where the parade was filmed...
Oh, and remember the old firehouse? It's right next door to the exterior of the police station (now, an art gallery) where Capt. America and Billy get thrown in jail, for "parading without a permit."
Apparently, that's a thing, people, so, get those permits before you start parading around town (especially if you're a hippie).
In addition to all this history, great architecture and the great street food we had (we scarfed on homemade, Indian Tacos while we there--Taco fixin's served on sweet, Indian fry bread!), Las Vegas offers a great getaway, if you're ever in the Santa Fe, or Albuquerque area.
We also found a thriving, local art scene there, as well as some of the best antique shops I've been to (and I've been to a whole bunch, all over the U.S.). I actually picked up some antique leather working tools there, and, some southwest themed fabrics that I could use in...oh, I don't know, maybe a future, limited edition, Signature pipe pouch? ; More on those later...
It really is an enchanted little town, and a hidden gem of Americana, that holds a lot of family history for me. I'm sure, my wife and I, Yadira, will be visiting it again, sometime in the future.