Las Cruces (läs krōˈsĭs) [key], city (1990 pop. 62,126), seat of Dona Ana co., SW N.Mex., on the Rio Grande, in a farm area irrigated by the Elephant Butte system; founded 1848, inc. 1907. It is the second largest city in New Mexico and was one of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the 1990s. Its economy is based chiefly upon agriculture and the nearby White Sands Missile Range, testing grounds for the first atomic bomb and a major military and NASA testing site. Cattle and sheep are raised, there is dairying, and vegetables, melons, corn, cotton, and pecans are grown. The city has food processing plants, wineries, and other light industry. The name, Spanish for "the crosses," refers to a massacre (1830) of some 40 travelers by Apaches on this site. New Mexico State Univ. is to the east. Nearby are the historic village of Mesilla, the picturesque Organ Mts., Fort Fillmore (1851), Fort Seldon (1865), and the village of Tortugas.
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