Our "A" Mountain
Nov 9th, 2015 By: Cassie McClure
Topics: History

Framed by the more impressive Organ Mountains, Tortugas Mountain tends to be a little overshadowed. For many, it only springs to mind when an eerie lit ‘A’ hangs in the darkness. As the name translated into English suggests, “tortoise” mountain is a little hump that can be seen well from the University and on the southeast side of Las Cruces.

Every December the village of Tortugas, NM, nestled next to I 10 on the far south side of town holds a celebration of the Virgin of Guadalupe on top of the mountain. Members of La Corporación de los Indigenes de Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe organize a pilgrimage where a mass is held. The hike up the mountain is less than three miles with an altitude gain of 500 feet which a large trail that allows old and young to be able to make the trek for the celebration, which culminates the following day with a large communal feast.

A local documentary by the City of Las Cruces called “Our People, Our Faith…Our Lady” highlights the entire event and community.

Another community lays claim to the “A” to which the mountain is commonly referred, New Mexico State University. On April 1, 1920, students of then New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts, climbed the mountain with five-gallon cans of whitewash and created the iconic A. Over the years, the painting of the A was a school tradition with seniors mixing the paint and freshmen and sophomores carrying it up to paint the 330-foot tall A. Now, this is a tradition usually run by the Greek Council.

Lastly, also on top of the mountain is the Tortugas Mountain Observatory owned by NMSU which is about 2 and half miles away. Founded by Clyde Tombaugh, discoverer of the former planet Pluto, the observatory has two buildings whose main mission is to observe local planets. 

Photo credit must go to "thebus" on Panoramio.com. View more of this photographers work at http://www.panoramio.com/photo/6503394.