Sometimes a nice drive doesn't have to be a long-distance road trip. This is the case with New Mexico Route 28 - a just over 30-mile drive from Las Cruces south to the Texas state line.
Beginning in Downtown Las Cruces, NM 28 combines history, scenery, and pecans. (More on that later.) Just south of Las Cruces and Interstate 10 is the historic town of Mesilla. Mesilla is the location of numerous key events in New Mexico history.
|Mesilla, NM Town Square|
Founded in 1848 on the northeast edge of Mexico territory, Mesilla would quickly become part of the United States after the Gadsen Purchase. The formalized agreement, also known as the Treaty of Mesilla, was signed in the town square in 1854. During the American Civil War, Mesilla, after being captured by the Confederate Army, briefly served as the capital of the Confederate Territory of Arizona. By mid-1862, after the Battle of Glorieta Pass, Mesilla was back in Union hands.
|Mesilla Town Plaza|
Mesilla thrived as the center of Southern New Mexico commerce until the construction of the Southern Pacific Railroad in the early 1880s. Mesilla residents did not want the new transcontinental railroad to run through their town. Instead, the new railroad ran to the north through Las Cruces.
|The Basilica of San Albino|
In addition to the Town Plaza, Mesilla is home to numerous historic structures. The layout of the town center remains the same as when first chartered in 1848. The church for the Roman Catholic San Albino Parrish, built in 1908, was granted minor basilica status in 2008.
|When NM 28 runs through pecan farms - it doesn't seem like New Mexico.|
As you continue south along Highway 28, you briefly depart from the desert southwest feel while driving under a canopy of pecan trees. Southern New Mexico is well known for its chiles but is also home to some of the largest pecan farms in the country. Stahmann Farms, which NM 28 runs through, is one of the largest family-run pecan farms in the country.
There are several small villages along NM 28. San Miguel, a community of about 1,100, is one of those towns. The San Miguel Catholic Church is the centerpiece of this community.
|San Miguel Catholic Church|
Further south in La Mesa is the well-known Chope's Bar and Cafe. This iconic over 100-year old local restaurant has attracted visitors throughout the region and nationally for its home-cooked Mexican offerings. Chope's has been owned and operated by three generations of the Jose "Chope" Benavides family. When I traveled through here in July 2021, Chope's was temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Fortunately, in October 2021, Chope's reopened for business. First, the bar - and later the roadside restaurant. Chope's is definitely on my list to stop and enjoy during my next visit to the area.
South of La Mesa - New Mexico 28 winds through some of New Mexico's best wineries before entering Texas near Canutillo. From here, it is easy access into El Paso via Interstate 10 or Texas 20.
All photos were taken by post author - June 2021
- Exploring Scenic Highway 28 ---Las Cruces Convention & Visitors Bureau
- Chope's, La Mesa, NM ---Steve's Food Blog
- Old Mesilla History ---oldmesilla.org