It was a good town 10 years ago and still is.
I like Las Cruces a lot. It's a small town, but it's growing. 10 years ago I moved away, and have been back about a month now. While the population has increased quite a bit during that time, and a LOT of new construction has happened out toward the Organ mountains, the city still has much of the same feel. Sorta. If you come here expecting lots of things to do you will be frustrated, because there isn't much to do. They keep trying to revitalize downtown, but it isn't working. There's a few art galleries, the Branigan Center and Museum for art exhibits, a restaurant or three, some community plays, and some new Brew Pubs that will probably go out of business once the novelty wears off. But that's OK. The big attraction is the Saturday Market, which is pretty neat. Some of the musicians are great, and the food trucks have basic stuff like breakfast burritos and the like.
Out where I moved to, it's all new construction and safe and clean. That's the best thing about the city. It's safe. I was in Abq before this, and that place was just awful. It had hot and cold running drugs and crime, 24/7. Hands down it was the most dangerous place I have ever lived.
Some things in Las Cruces, you just have to put together yourself. There are around 100,000 people here and no Zen Centers. I'm a Zen guy, but we can hang w/ the lack of a place to meet. There are a few other Buddhist places out here, but by and large it's a Christian town, and largely Catholic, although there is a nominal Unitarian presence. This is all fine with me, since many of the people here are Catholic anyway due to their upbringing, both here and in Mexico.
It's hard to get used to the fact that making things happen is a DIY affair. If one is willing to work at it, there ARE things to do. What Cruces is really about is personal relationships. By and large the people here are friendly and nice. It reminds me somewhat of places in the South (where I'm from) that still have that sense of hospitality. You can usually strike up a conversation at the grocery store or on the bus. Because some things are centered around church for a lot of people, that kinda leaves me out, but the Catholics and Episcopals are open minded and not at all preachy. No one is going to try and convert you here. Many of the people are just plain down home nice, and I like that.
There's always the great scenery and mountains, and the weather is wonderful for hiking and biking. The bus system is not half bad, and it now runs as late as 10:30 PM, which is a big improvement over the old PM cutoff. There's still no Sunday service though.
Cruces was a well kept secret for a long time, but now the word is out, and a lot of retirees are moving here. People like chain restaurants, but there's more than a few good local places. The housing here is ridiculously low compared to other places I've lived, and the quality of life is high. The drivers are just plain nuts, but that seems to be a New Mexico thing. They were even worse in Abq. You have to be on your toes because people are liable to do anything at anytime, and of course drivers on cell phones are dangerous no matter where you live.
The one thing I am having trouble adjusting to is the speed of some people when they're walking! Man, you would think they were in New York! It's especially noticeable in the young people. No one in Abq moved this fast, and I do mean no one. I haven't a clue what the reason for it is either. Maybe it's a spill over from Texas? That's one thing I don't like, the proximity to Texas. I wish they would just succeed from the USA and get it over with because I do not like anything from that place. I tried living in Galveston, San Antonio and Houston, and no matter where you go, you're still in TEXAS. Me, I can do w/o that for sure. They ain't Southerners, they're Texans.
A lot of the older part of the city, especially around the El Paseo area, is ghetto. Now it may not be as bad as it looks, but it looks bad. Not as in gang style bad, just poverty ridden and unkempt. There is some crime here in the city, but as I said, nothing compared to Abq or even El Paso. There is some road rage stuff, and it seems that some people are likely to pull a gun vs just getting out and having an argument or a fist fight. Again, this is probably just a New Mexican thing, not necessarily a Cruces thing. It generally happens with younger people.
Generally I feel very safe here, and I ride a bike and take the bus, so I'm more exposed to things than people sitting in their cars. If you bank w/ BofA as I do, be warned, there is ONE bank here now. Period. Other than that one, there is an ATM machine at the college.
I fled here from Abq because their non stop crime was about to give me a nervous breakdown, and rightly so, and had planned on moving someplace from here. But I honestly can't think of a nicer place to live, so this is going to be home. It's a neat place. As the population grows there will be more problems of course, but at 68, I should be pushing up daisies by that time, so it won't be a problem.
steve | ,