Las Cruces is the second largest city in New Mexico with an estimated 82,671 residents. The area is an agricultural region that is supported by the nearby floodplain of the Rio Grande, just west of the city. The city was founded in Apache territory in 1598 by Don Juan de Oňate, a son of a noble Spanish family, whose wife was the granddaughter of Cortes and the great granddaughter of Moctezuma. The city got its name from the early designation of "El Pueblo del Jardín de Las Cruces" ("The Village of the Garden of the Crosses") from a legend of a early massacre of travelers and the crosses that marked their graves.
Las Cruces is the home of New Mexico State University, New Mexico's only land grant university, with more than 23,000 graduate and undergraduate students on the main campus and four branch campuses. The nearby White Sands Missile Range and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration facilities have added to the academic community and to the local economy.
Las Cruces is also home to the annual Whole Enchilada Fiesta. The fiesta's main attraction is the creation of a very large (at an average of 10 feet in diameter) flat red enchilada created by local restaurant owner Roberto Estrada. The fiesta offers live music, rides, food vendors, and other attractions. Another major attraction in the area is the Southern New Mexico State Fair.
Visitors and residents alike can enjoy the historic downtown of the city, a six-block stretch closed off to vehicle traffic in 1973 to form the "Downtown Mall.” This market gets Its appeals from the wide variety of goods available for purchase. A plethora of foods and cultural items can be purchased from small stands set up by local farmers, artists, and craftspeople. It also contains many businesses, churches, art galleries, and theaters; which all contribute to the city's character.