Catsup or ketchup? What do you say?


La Mesilla is an old stagecoach stop outside of Las Cruces, NM.  Like other New Mexico towns, at its center there is a plaza (like a garden square or village green), with a church at one end.  It has the Victorian era bandstand in the middle of the square, and shops across the streets on all other three sides.

We have made La Mesilla a favorite rest stop on routes from Tucson to Dallas, Tucson to Austin, or Tucson to places further north in New Mexico.  Over 40 years we have seen it flourish and the area around it grow into quite a retirement and second home community.  It is a mini-Santa Fe. It is not much smaller that Old Town Albuquerque.  It is just right.

This past weekend I drove to it twice for lunch, once on my way to Ruidoso to pick up a granddaughter, and then once again on our way back to Tucson.  It was that first stop that was heart-stopping.

Pueblo Indian dancers and musicians were performing on the plaza as part of a “Free Wheelchair Mission” Fajita Fiesta.  It was about noon, and suddenly the church bells were ringing.  I looked at the double doors above the steps and a bride and her party were standing there in smiles.  They seemed mildly oblivious to the dancing and drumming, but – it was their day.

In the Double Eagle’s covered courtyard, enjoying the sound of the fountain and the canopy of green leaves, I had a refreshing cup of tortilla soup.  I then returned into the hot sun and started across the end of the plaza.  Most of the music had ceased, but as I reached the far side, coming toward me was a procession led by two handsome men with a tiny, gray-haired grandma between them.  They held her gently between their bent arms, as if she were the fragile Queen.  Behind them flowed the troop of Pueblo dancers, all ages, walking softly in the rhythm of the muted drums.  They moved quietly, and clearly with respect for this elder.  She moved with dignity, though her face was wizened.  She may have been blind.

Four the next two hours, as I crossed the pass in the saw-tooth mountains, continued up the gradual slope at the edge of White Sands, and finally wiggled my way through Tularosa and the beginning of the beautiful climb into Mescalero Apache Territory, my thoughts kept returning the compressed portrait of a woman’s life.  I was going to fetch a five year old whose 40-year-old mother, my daughter-in-law, has a life-threatening illness.  I had seen a bride and groom, and they were setting out on a life of presumed joy.  I saw a grandmother, more likely a great-grandmother, still alive and still cherished by her extended family.  I wonder how long she would continue on Earth.  I was shaken by the contrast in expectations.

I wish I had a photo to share with you, but I don’t.  I did learn from Erlinda Portillo, who schedules Mesilla Plaza events, that the group is Piro Manso Tiwa Indian Dancers, a Las Cruces branch of a larger group based in El Paso. If you go to you’ll read some interesting history, beginning:

The Piro-Manso-Tiwa Tribe of Guadalupe Pueblo, of Las Cruces, New Mexico is the only organized American Indian Tribal group descended from the Pueblo Indians of the Guadalupe Mission of Paso del Norte (present Cd. Juarez). Descendents of the Guadalupe Mission were among the first settlers who came to Las Cruces in 1849. During the subsequent decades, they were joined by other Pueblo Indian families from Paso del Norte.

Here’s some more good reading: and

I returned with little Maya to La Mesilla plaza the next day. The dancers had gone.  Still it was crowded.  It was fortunate we went first to the bookstore and found a distracting and hopeful William Steig book about the friendship between a mouse and a whale, because we had a 30 minute wait at the Double Eagle.  Finally, I watched in fascination as this tall, skinny five-year-old ate an entire cheeseburger and a few French fries dipped in catsup.  We joked about the catsup-ketchup battle we have in our family.  Maybe every family debates this important topic.  Back to the mundane.

Leave a Reply




You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>