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History teachers and students reveal the curved bench of a prehistoric Puebloan kiva in a pithouse community and complex irrigation systems. The dates for this archaeological site suggest far earlier occupation in the Rio Tularosa watershed than commonly thought and will be presented at the conference by David Greenwald, lead archaeologist. (Photo by Joan E. Price)


Legends Come to Life

The 2018 Historical Society of New Mexico Conference comes to Alamogordo


istorians are like young cats – they are hunters, alert, following every scent for information about just exactly what happened in their territory. Better said, they are finely honed detectives with a magnifying glass looking at clues into the cultural landscape of some strange archaic hand tool, an enigmatic Spanish chronicle, the memoir of a long-gone woman and her scattered family or court records of testimonies in some tragic event. Historians don’t rest in the final words of legends. Today, history is being revisited and rewritten. This is an era of depth being added to historical landscapes due, in part, to the digital revolution and in part to a younger generation of educated professionals with personal experiences to drive them to the hunt. This years’ Historical Society of New Mexico conference will introduce the digital revolution of newly available public information with a session during a four-day packed conference on the New Mexico State University-Alamogordo campus. There is a passionate localism along with academic professionalism south of the Interstate 40 corridor where the population centers of the northern part of the state divide from the vast rural spaces of the southern border regions. Dawn Santiago, a board member of the New Mexico History

“They Came-They Saw-They Were Conquered”: In 1934, Silver City photographer A. Newman captured a delightful glimpse into the rising numbers of visitors at the sublime White Sands as touring southern New Mexico became a major tourist activity. Peter Eidenbach examines this phenomenon at an upcoming conference. (Photo courtesy of Tularosa Basin History Museum)

Society and regional liaison for the conference preparations, is very pleased with the number of proposals the organizing committee received from both professional and lay historians focusing on southern New Mexico. They are coming out of the woodwork and it is a good surprise -the conference is almost all local topics of interest in the states’ evolution to what it is today. The underlying beauty of the 2018 New Mexico History Conference is the all-volunteer muscle and devotion that brings such a wealth of information to its members and the public. Volunteers with the Tularosa Basin Historical Society and New

Mexico State University are partnering with the tiny HSNM state office in Santa Fe, where Janet Saiers, a past president of NMHS and tireless volunteer herself, helps to coordinate and fine tune the daunting task with local historical societies recruiting and presenting professional topics to over 200 (expected) participants, finding suitable locations and featured speakers, catering and publishing, each year in different location. And yes, Western novelist Michael McGarrity will be socializing all afternoon with one of his favorite historical source, cowboy poet Eugene Manlove Rhodes from “Arcadia,” (Tularosa) at the Alamogordo Pub-

lic Library on Thursday, April 19. McGarrity will be opening the plenary session in the evening followed by a tasty reception at the New Mexico Space Museum. The state song “O Fair New Mexico” adopted in 1917, sung in schools throughout the state, was written by Elizabeth Garrett, born at Eagle Creek in what is now Lincoln National Forest. Elizabeth was a courageous blind woman, oft forgotten as daughter of Pat Garrett. However, Miss Garrett’s famed father, the Lincoln Sherriff who killed Billy the Kid and wrote a book about the folk hero, will be examined by Professor of History Cynthia Orozco from Ruidoso as she takes a closer look at oft-forgotten co-author and ghost writer Marshall Ash Upson, “The Man Who Invented Billy the Kid.” The ubiquitous state logo “Land of Enchantment,” coined for New Mexico by Eugene Manlove Rhodes, first appeared in his honor on New Mexican license plates in 1941 as tourists from all over the world began to pick up Department of Tourism brochures emblazoned with “The Land of Enchantment.” Rhodes’ national literary fame will be brought into a new light by David Townsend, retired professor and officer of HSNM while the adventuring tourists opening up new destinations will be presented by anthropologist Pete Eidenbach in “On the Road Again.”

Stocks and bonds, early maps, lost gold mines and lore of treasure caches of the region are evidence for several presenters to expose an often-harsh reality to the effort to develop, capitalize on and romanticize southern New Mexico. Before that era, several presenters bring a clear head and new information to the power struggles and cultural conflicts that set a thin veneer of American civilization built by those with ‘connections,’ who successfully negotiated the slow transition from Spanish to Mexican to Territorial to New Mexican personalities. The rural spaces also reveal a powerful presence of the Space Age that took hold here – and the prehistoric Native American sophisticated terraced irrigation systems. Japanese – American Internment Camps, the key contribution from the “Little Mexico” La Luz Pottery to the Southwest Revival architecture now taken for granted, and the human-wolf interaction offer more in depth eye-popping surprises that come from southern New Mexico. The 2018 New Mexico History Conference will take place April 19-21 at NMSU-Alamogordo. Reading the program of the entire event rivals any imagination – the summary of sessions, tours and presentation topics will dizzy the mind. To download the full conference program and to register, go to

Desert Exposure - April 2018  
Desert Exposure - April 2018