Friday, April 26, 2013

Columbus, New Mexico, Part 4: There's Something About ....

Downtown, Columbus, New Mexico

I talked to maybe seven or eight Columbus residents, none of whom were born in the area. All transplants. I either asked or they volunteered how they ended up in this place. Here's what I heard, with everyone holding at least four reasons in common: 
  • It grew on me.
  • The scenery. I love the high desert.
  • Being so close to the border. 
  • Appreciation for the Mexican culture; the biculturalism here. 
  • It's safe here.
  • We're in a forgotten corner of the country - we enjoy our peace and quiet. 
It's important to qualify that with the exception of one person, I only talked to Anglo transplants - I don't know if or how Latino residents feel the same or differently about living in Columbus. (And considering that Latinos comprise the super-majority of the population in Columbus, I'm not sure how my focus group was so skewed demographically, but it warrants some contemplation.)

I could see all of the reasons for the transplants to settle in Columbus, except for one - the scenery. I'm telling you, I just didn't get that one.

Take the sun, for example. There's no relief from it unless you build a shade structure, and with the exception of my hotel, I saw precious little of that. When I was in Columbus, noticing the intense sunshine, I tried on some stock phrases, such as "sun-baked" or "relentless," but they don't quite fit. Maybe it's more like a town that sits beneath a strong heat lamp all day, every day.

Tire art, a new art medium I've been encountering in New Mexico. Here it is in downtown Columbus.

And the view? Flat. Scrubby. Yes, there is the suggestion of mountains in the distance, but they don't have much presence when one looks out over the terrain. I didn't see my good friends, the soaptree yucca, of whom I've grown fond.

Columbus, New Mexico.

My hotel host, a Californian transplant, told me it took him between six months to a year to love Columbus, but it happened eventually.

Just outside Columbus is a flying community; the residents live in the Hacienda Sur Luna, and their homes look out onto the airfield. 

Also just outside Columbus is the remnant of a community of people who settled here in anticipation of an extraterrestial landing, allegedly. My only source for this intel is this excerpt of a CNN article

Columbus is home to the City of the Sun, one of New Mexico's oldest communes. It was established in the early 1970s because its founder believed flying saucers were going to land here, according to David Pennington, 75, a retired social worker who lives in an adobe house in the commune.

This official City of the Sun description makes no mention of such an illustrious origin story. I didn't get a very good look at the City of the Sun, being put off by the entrance sign warning off any but residents and their guests. But these folks enjoyed a friendly tour and here are some beautiful pictures. This City of the Sun resident bolsters my impression that somehow Columbus entraps its folk:

Having resided at, (been marooned at), the City of Dysfunction, (City of the Sun), for this past interminable decade, I have recently had to admit to acquiring some elements of sloth and indolence.

And I must admit I felt something ... a somnolence .... that slowed me down while I was in Columbus, making me want to just sit on the front patio and watch the traffic, rare though it was, pass by on Highway 9.  On one morning, two cowboys pulled up in their horse trailer and sauntered up to the hotel for some coffee. And I saw a yacht being transported west. Must have been goin' a fur piece to find a body of water deep enough for that boat.   

Columbus, New Mexico.

If I stayed longer, I, too, may have been caught under the town's spell.


Annie Jeffries said...

I discovered you today as I was traveling the information highway for images of Marian shrines. You became a natural part of my post today on my own blog.

God bless,

Mzuri said...

Thank you very much, Annie! I have been reading your work with pleasure.

Retiring Soon said...


No one has commented for 4 years. I have read your complete 7 part blog on Columbus, NM and found it (and the pictures wonderful). I would love to know more: did you rent and how did you find a place to live there? How did you spend your days? What were the biggest problems? (I can already see the big surprises you found). In any case, thanks for this information.

Retiring Soon said...


I have read and appreciated all 7 parts of you Columbus, NM blog. It was interesting and I would even like more information: did you rent while spending a year there? What surprises (good and bad) do recall? What was the hardest part of your one-year stay? and just about any other things you recall.

Mzuri said...

Hi Retiring Soon (may I call you RS?)! My New Mexico base was in Alamogordo. However, as you may recall from my Columbus posts, people who moved to Columbus seem to like it quite a bit. I was darned impressed by its library. Considering how remote Columbus seems, it's only about an hour and a half away from El Paso - an easy, laid-back drive, at that.

Retiring Soon said...


I is nice to see your reply. Can I ask if you rented while in Columbus? Is it easy or hard to find a decent place to rent? Would you simply go through the Deming realtors or first ask around in the community itself?

Mzuri said...

Hi RS! I may not have been very clear in my earlier reply to you - I never lived in Columbus. I lived in Alamogordo. If I were going to live in Columbus and was looking for a place to rent, I'd check out craigslist first. Depending on the time of year when I arrived, I might camp at the in-town state park while I made local inquiries. Or I might try to find an airbnb in Deming to stay in while I poked around Columbus for word-of-mouth info or yard signs for rentals. I hope this is helpful.

Danny said...

We spent 10 days there in January of 2016. Visited Las Palomas several times and stayed in Pancho Villa State Park. Cheap place to live if you don't need to be entertained or have a need for green trees. Long drive to supermarket or a hardware store or a hospital. But I'm sure it would suit some folks. A modular home on a cheap lot would be my prescription. No pint in spending up large in village like Columbus.

Mzuri said...

Thanks for stopping by, Danny, and sharing your experience of Columbus!

I revisited in September 2016 ( January 2019.

I hope COVID hasn't landed too heavily on Columbus and Puerto Palomas.