Chiva Town: A Nearly Forgotten Part of the Mesquite Historic District
The spring of 2011 brought on the reminiscent of Chiva Town. The City of Las Cruces employed a herd of goats, owned by Jake Perrault, to clean the retention pond south of the Munson Center and that brought on the talk! My neighbor, Margaret Rodriquez, tells about her family buying goat milk every weekend from Doña Paz who would drive around the Mesquite Neighborhood in a carriage pulled by a horse selling cheese, butter and milk. The Paz’s were well known for giving dances every weekend at their house which Margaret was forbidden to attend as her parents did not believe in dancing.
Goats (chiva in Spanish) were brought to Las Cruces in the 1880’s by the grandfather of Arturo O. Peña. By 1907 there were thousands of goats in Doña Ana County and by the 1920s the area south of town along the Las Cruces Arroyo was known as Chiva Town or sometimes Goat Hill. The borders were pretty loosely defined but generally Chiva Town lay between the arroyo on the north, Solano Drive on the east, Idaho Avenue on the south and Campo Street on the west. In Rita Kasch Chegin's book "Survivors: Women of the Southwest", Las Crucen Elsie Chavez Chilton recalls Chiva Town during the 1930s and 40s. According to Elsie, "Chiva Town was several acres located up on the high place that is now Solano, all that area. The goats and the herders lived there in very, very small huts - makeshift places. They would milk the goats, sell the milk and cheese and butcher some of the goats. They would come down to the lower part of town to sell it."
In 1972 vacant lots and unpaved streets abounded in Chiva Town. A zoning request by city native Sylvester Hernandez was approved leading to development of the area. The city's flood control projects tamed the old Las Cruces Arroyo, Valley View Park was built along the old path of the arroyo, the Munson Senior Center and public housing projects were constructed and Chiva Town and its goats were all but forgotten.
Goat herders pictured in Las Cruces in 1907, possibly in the area that became Chiva Town. At that time, there were thousands of goats herded in Doña Ana County. (Photo courtesy of NMSU Library and Special Collections and copied from the article Midtown: Remembering Chiva Town - When goats kept south Las Cruces clean, by Christopher Schurtz / For My Las Cruces Posted:03/22/2011 01:00:00 AM MDT)
What remained of Chiva Town in 1972. With few goats left, the area became overgrown with weeds. The city began rezoning and developing this area in the 1970s. (Photo courtesy of NMSU Library and Special Collections and copied from the article Midtown: Remembering Chiva Town - When goats kept south Las Cruces clean, by Christopher Schurtz / For My Las Cruces Posted:03/22/2011 01:00:00 AM MDT)
Goats cleaning the retention pond south of the Munson Center. City marker of Chiva Town and Doña Paz at the corner of Utah and Mesquite streets.
Story and photos courtesy: Faith Hutson