We heard about Pancho Villa SP from a lady in a campground in Texas but she just said it was a nice place close to the Mexican border but she didn’t say how incredible the history was for this area in New Mexico. The history goes back to 1916, in Mexico there was a leader in the north named Pancho Villa and his men the Villistas. He had favourable relations with the US but when the US recognized Venustiano Carranza as the defacto president of Mexico the story goes that Villa was quite upset with this and decided to attack Columbus New Mexico on March 9th, 1916. There was a military camp (Furlong) in Columbus but the 485 Villistas snuck across the border and attacked at 4:11 am. They set downtown Columbus on fire and 9 civilians and 8 US Soldiers were killed as well as an estimated 90 Villistas. The battle was actually the last international attack on the continental US. The response from President Woodrow Wilson was immediate and they amassed over 10,000 troops and technology in Columbus to cross in to Mexico to hunt down Pancho Villa and the Villistas. They called the action in to Mexico the “Punitive Expedition” and although they had several skirmishes and killed some Villistas they never did catch Pancho Villa. The fascinating thing about this expedition was that it was the first time the US military had used Airplanes, Cars, and Four Wheel Drive vehicles as a part of their military efforts. This Expedition would fundamentally change the US military use of technology in war! General Pershing who led the expedition was chosen in April of 1917 to head the US military in the World War I efforts.
On Saturday morning we started off with the exhibit hall in the SP and it was very well laid out, including a short video about Pancho Villa’s raid. Here are some photos of the technology that General Pershing’s troops were using. You’ll have to zoom in on the photo that describes how to fly a Jenny as it is quite funny!
Here are a few of the display boards from the exhibit hall.
We had lunch after the exhibit hall and then returned to see the Custom House, the Camp Furlong Recreation center, and the small museum across the street in the old railway station. Inside the museum we watched another video about the raid and saw train artifacts, general merchandise of the day (one for you to guess what it is and a hutch similar to the one we have back home), as well as the safe with bullet holes and supposedly Pancho Villa’s hat. After the museum closed we finished off by seeing a replica of General Pershing’s Review stand.
That evening we were treated to a beautiful desert sunset sky. The best colours were about 20 minutes after the sun had set.
The next day was Christmas Eve day so we decided to ride our bikes 5 KMS to the Mexican border and walk across for shopping and lunch. Luckily we found a good fence near the parking lot to lock our bikes to and we used 4 locks so we figured they were safe. The border crossing was a complete joke. We followed the Pedestrian path and went in what looked like the immigration mobile home. The customs person asked what I wanted and I handed him my passport and said we wanted to across for lunch. He barely looked at the passport and he didn’t want to see Sharon’s at all and he said go ahead. Many people cross here to get low priced dental and eye care as well as prescription drugs but those places were closed since it was the 24th.
The main destination for tourists was called “The Pink Store” and it was only 200’ inside the border. We decided to walk a little further into Las Palomas and then returned to the Pink Store. They had tons of souvenir craft items to look at and we weren’t inside the door 15 seconds before we were offered free drinks, Sharon had a strong Margarita and I had a beer. We looked around for about a half hour before going to the restaurant for lunch, where of course we got more free drinks;-) We had a Chicken Quesadilla appetizer in honour of Maya since when we first came to Mexico with her when she was little, she ordered Chicken Quesadilla’s every day. We tried explaining to the waiter that story but then we both teared up. He gave us more free drinks and Flan for dessert;-) We did decide to buy a pottery fish as a souvenir (maybe it was the drinks doing the buying) and a couple of bottles of alcohol. When we crossed the border back in to the US they did scan Sharon’s passport and asked a few questions. We were ready to pay the duty on our alcohol but they saw we had bike helmets and decided to let us go through without duty;-)
On Christmas day we wandered around the grounds of the State Park where they had lots of other exhibits for the history in this area. We saw the Judge Advocates office, the Camp Furlong Headquarters building, the view of Columbus and the view of the campground from Cootes Hill, the first Military auto grease rack, and the location of the first Military Airbase.
The last photo shows some of purchases from the following wineries: Heart of the Desert, Amaro, Tularosa Vineyards, and St. Clair Winery. Our favourite from this selection is likely the Lescombes Petite Sirah but it was also the most expensive;-)
Sorry for two posts on the same day but we have rare internet access today. Next post will be City of Rocks SP whenever we have access again;-)