Pancho Villa State Park, Columbus, NM


    The little town of Columbus does more than border two countries -- it borders two worlds. This is where, in the early morning hours of March 9, 1916, Pancho Villa raided the United States, leaving eight soldiers and nine civilians dead (ninety of Villa's men died). Today, the Pancho Villa State Park (shown above) stands at the site where Camp Furlong once stood, and where General "Black Jack" Pershing commanded troops on an expedition to capture Villa.


    Columbus is sometimes regarded as a ghost town, but a modern border crossing station, a museum and the Pancho Villa state park all pitch in to keep it from dying out. Like many other semi-ghost towns, Columbus evokes a genuine spirit of the past. It's not difficult to envision the life of a border town in the early 1900s while strolling the streets, nor is it difficult to get a real appreciation of the importance of the border in New Mexico's history.

      I went to the border crossing when I visited. Walking up to the dividing line between the U.S. and Mexico, I considered taking that last step into another country. With one step, the rights and privleges that defined how I lived would be gone. Just one step and everything I took for granted would be literally and figuratively behind me. The border was too close. I was scared. I turned back.

    No write-up on Columbus would be complete without a nod to Mrs. Susan Parks Kendrick. On the morning of the famous raid, Mrs. Parks, a telephone operator in Columbus, called for help and alerted several residents of the danger from her switchboard. The switchboard is on display in the Columbus Museum, only a few feet away from Pancho Villa's death mask -- two items one would never expect to find in a room together. The distance between any two dissimilar objects - like the border between two countries - can sometimes be remarkably thin.


(click on the thumbnail image to see a larger picture)

The Tres Hermanas (Three Sisters) Mountains are a beautiful site on the drive between Deming and Columbus.

Mrs. Susan Parks Kendrick used this switchboard to alert the residents of Columbus to Villa's raid.

Pancho Villa's death mask is a grim reminder that history has a face.

A firearms sign and border crossing station mark the entrance to Mexico.