Las Cruces is a city in Doña Ana County, New Mexico, United States. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 74,267. The population was 82,671 as of the 2005 census estimate, making it the second largest city in the state. Las Cruces is the center of an agricultural region irrigated by the Rio Grande, which flows just west of the city. The city of Las Cruces bisects the fertile Mesilla Valley, the flood plain of the Rio Grande which extends from Hatch, New Mexico to the west side of El Paso, Texas. Las Cruces is also the home of New Mexico State University. NMSU is New Mexico's only land grant university, citing more than 23,000 graduate and undergraduate students on the main campus and four branch campuses. The Organ Mountains are to the east of the city. Las Cruces has a mayor-council form of government with a city manager. It is the county seat of Doña Ana CountyGR6.
Las Cruces is home to the annual Whole Enchilada Fiesta. The fiesta's main attraction is the creation of a very large (on average 10 feet in diameter) flat red enchilada by local restaurant owner Roberto Estrada. The fiesta offers live music, rides, food vendors, and other attractions typical of fairs. The Southern New Mexico State Fair is usually held only a few days after the end of the Whole Enchilada Fiesta. The fiesta's mascot, "Twefie" (taken from the abbreviation of the fiesta's name) is a large red chile pepper wearing a sombrero. At the 2004 event, Guinness World Records confirmed that Estrada had made the world's largest flat enchilada. (There was a pre-existing record for world's longest rolled enchilada, but not for world's largest flat enchilada.)In honor of the chile crop of New Mexico, the state has adopted "Red or Green" as its official state question to specify which type of chile is more spicy that season.
As of the censusGR2 of 2000, there were 74,267 people, 29,184 households, and 18,123 families residing in the city. The population density was 550.5/km² (1,425.7/mi²). There were 31,682 housing units at an average density of 234.8/km² (608.2/mi²). The racial makeup of the city was 69.01% White, 2.34% African American, 1.74% Native American, 1.16% Asian, 0.07% Pacific Islander, 21.59% from other races, and 4.10% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 51.73% of the population.
There were 29,184 households out of which 30.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 42.3% were married couples living together, 15.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 37.9% were non-families. 27.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.46 and the average family size was 3.05.
In the city the population was spread out with 25.1% under the age of 18, 16.0% from 18 to 24, 26.9% from 25 to 44, 19.0% from 45 to 64, and 13.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 31 years. For every 100 females there were 94.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.0 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $30,375, and the median income for a family was $37,670. Males had a median income of $30,923 versus $21,759 for females. The per capita income for the city was $15,704. About 17.2% of families and 23.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 30.7% of those under age 18 and 9.7% of those age 65 or over.
Public schools in Las Cruces are part of the Las Cruces Public School District.
Las Cruces Public Schools is the second largest school district in New Mexico. Located 45 miles north of the Mexican border, it encompasses the City of Las Cruces, the villages of La Mesilla and Doña Ana, and covers the middle third of Doña Ana County.
The district has 35 schools: 24 elementary schools (grades pre-K-5), seven middle schools (grades 6-8) and four high schools (grades 9-12). The district also has one vocational high school providing career technical education (CTE) to 8th - 12th grade students.
Student enrollment is nearly 24,000 students. Las Cruces Public Schools is the third largest employer in Doña Ana County with more than 3,600 employees, which includes about 2,200 classroom teachers and educational assistants.
New Mexico State University, or NMSU, is a land-grant university that has its main campus in Las Cruces, New Mexico. The school was founded in 1888 as Las Cruces College, an agricultural college, and in 1889 the school became New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts. It received its present name, New Mexico State University in 1960. NMSU has approximately 26,400 students enrolled as of Fall 2005, and has a faculty-to-student ratio of about 1 to 19. NMSU offers a wide range of programs and awards associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees through its main campus and four community colleges. For 10 consecutive years, NMSU has been rated as one of America's 100 Best College Buys for offering "the very highest quality education at the lowest cost" by Institutional Research & Evaluation Inc., an independent research and consulting organization for higher education. NMSU is one of only two land-grant institutions classified as Hispanic-serving by the federal government. The university is home to New Mexico's NASA Space Grant Program and is one of 52 institutions in the United States to be designated a Space Grant College. During its most recent review by NASA, NMSU was one of only 12 space grant programs in the country to receive an excellent rating.
When Dona Ana Community College opened its doors 28 years ago, it served 200 students through six programs. Today, over 4,000 students are enrolled in the 25 programs offered in Business and Information Technology, Health and Public Services and Technical Studies. General education courses are also provided. Through its educational and career-building programs, DACC is positioning itself to become southern New Mexico's one-stop, workforce-development center. In early 2007, DACC expanded and new workforce-development initiatives were put into place resulting already in Las Cruces' first truck-driving academy and the use of a mobile technology vehicle to provide on-site skill training for south-valley businesses. Other innovative educational-delivery plans are under way. In order to meet the demands of the local job market, many business and community leaders serve on DACC's program advisory boards. Subsequently, DACC programs are adapted to the demands of the local job market. A graduate placement rate of more than 90 percent attests to the college's market driven offerings. The Small Business Development Center offers free counseling for those starting up or maintaining their own businesses.
In addition, ten thousand residents are served in noncredit classes through the Academy for Learning in Retirement, Community Education and Customized Training. And, in spite of the enormous increases in size and enrollment, the community college still abides by the initial theme that made it a reality so long ago, that of accessibility through an open-door policy and a "no-barriers" philosophy in a friendly atmosphere. An emphasis on student success is aided through a variety of support services.
Along with DACC's main location at 3400 S. Espina St., satellite locations serve outlying areas of the county at White Sands Missile Range, Sunland Park, Anthony and Las Cruces' East Mesa.
Unlike many cities its size, Las Cruces lacks a true central business district. This is due to the fact that in the 1970s a large urban renewal project tore down a large part of the original downtown. Most Las Crucens would agree that the modern "heart" of the city, where most stores and restaurants are located, is the rapidly developing eastside area running north and south along Telshor Boulevard and east and west along Lohman Avenue. Las Cruces' only shopping mall and a variety of retail stores and restaurants are located in this area. However, the historic downtown of the city is the area around Main Street, a six-block stretch of which was closed off in 1973 to form the "Downtown Mall", a pedestrianized shopping area. The downtown mall has a farmers market each Wednesday and Saturday morning, where a variety of foods and cultural items can be purchased from a few small stands that are set up by local farmers, artists, and craftspeople. It also contains some businesses, churches, art galleries and theaters, which add a great deal to the changing character of Las Cruces by continuing to exist in the historic downtown.
Plans to re-open the whole mall to vehicular traffic besides the completed one-block example have drawn criticism from people who feel the multi-million dollar project is too costly and from others who enjoy the aesthetics, usually quiet, and the ever inportant shade of the fully-covered area of the pedestrian mall. Nevertheless, the mall's north and south entrances have been torn down. Furthermore, in August 2005, a master plan was adopted, the centerpiece of which is the restoration of narrow lanes of two-way traffic on this model portion of Main Street.