This very small town was made famous in 1916 when it was raided by the army of Méxican Revolutionary General Francisco Pancho Villa. It was the last invasion by a foreign military on the American mainland.
Cootes Hill, named after a soldier, was used during the day as a lookout to watch the border. However, on that fateful night, it helped conceal the approach of the pre-dawn invaders on horseback. A small calvary garrison was taken by surprise and several soldiers and civilians were killed, before the Villistas were eventually driven off.
The raid prompted a military build up and a punitive expedition into México to capture Villa. However, he was never found. The campaign was the last use of the cavalry in action, and the first mechanized force by the USA with trucks, armored carriers and airplanes. It was lead by General Pershing, who incidentally had befriended General Villa earlier. And, a young Lieutenant George Patton was involved too.
Although an entire village block was burned down during the raid, a few buildings from that time still remain. Including what was the Customs Office and the RR Depot, which is now the Historical Museum. Pancho Villa State Park is built on land that was once part of Camp Furlong, and the first Army Airfield.
They have an annual festival that honors those that died in the skirmish, both American and Méxican. Just four miles south gets you across the border to the town of Puerto Palomas which caters to American tourists and those seeking inexpensive prescriptions, dental and eye care, and Méxican crafts.
There are lots of desert gardens, which in the Spring, turns the park into a colorful display of blooms. While there is not a lot to do in the town, the park Visitor Center and the Historical Society Museum do a good job of telling their story.
Looks like a cool place! Don’t know if I would get that close to the Mexico border in that area!!
No problem really. People go back and forth across the border, between Columbus and Puerto Palomas, all the time. It’s a fairly peaceful area; besides, the border patrol has a big presence to deter any mischief.
When we lived in New Mexico for 5 years 2007-2012, that area was a big crossing for lots of illegals – I would not trust it.
Can you walk across the border or do you need to drive?
There is a parking lot on the USA side of the border. So, you can park and then walk across. But, I suppose there are those that drive across too.