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Northeastern New Mexico Travel Guide

Las Vegas

The antithesis of the Nevada city that shares its name, Las Vegas, elevation 6,470 feet, is a town of about 15,000 that time appears to have passed by. For decades, Las Vegas was actually two towns divided by Rio Gallinas: West Las Vegas, the Hispanic community anchored by the Spanish-style plaza, and East Las Vegas, where German Jews and midwesterners had established themselves around

a proper town square. Once an oasis for stagecoach passengers en route to Santa Fe, it became—for a brief period after the railroad arrived in the late 19th century—New Mexico's major center of commerce, and its largest town, where more than a million dollars in goods and services were traded annually.

Booming business and near-total lawlessness characterized the 1870s. Famous characters on both sides of the law passed through the town—including Doc Holliday (who practiced dentistry here), Billy the Kid, and Wyatt Earp. Fierce battles for land—often swindled out of the hands of illiterate Hispanic land-grant holders by ruthless American businessmen—and water rights ensued, with the Gorras Blancos ("White Hoods") appearing in 1889 to begin their campaign of cutting fences and setting fire to buildings on lands that had once been community property of the many land grants of the area. Today, the town is considerably more sedate.

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Fodor's Las Vegas 2015

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