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Columbus, New Mexico

Columbus is a village in Luna County, New Mexico, United States, about 3 miles north of the Mexican border. It is considered a place of historical interest, as the scene of an attack in 1916 by Mexican revolutionary leader Francisco "Pancho" Villa that caused America to send 10,000 troops there in the punitive Mexican Expedition. The population was 1,664 at the 2010 census.

Columbus, New Mexico
View of Columbus from Pancho Villa State Park
View of Columbus from Pancho Villa State Park
Location of Columbus, New Mexico
Location of Columbus, New Mexico
Columbus, New Mexico is located in the United States
Columbus, New Mexico
Columbus, New Mexico
Location in the United States
Coordinates: 31°49′51″N 107°38′30″W / 31.83083°N 107.64167°W / 31.83083; -107.64167Coordinates: 31°49′51″N 107°38′30″W / 31.83083°N 107.64167°W / 31.83083; -107.64167
CountryUnited States
StateNew Mexico
 • MayorEsequiel Salas
 • Total2.8 sq mi (7.2 km2)
 • Land2.8 sq mi (7.2 km2)
 • Water0.0 sq mi (0.0 km2)
4,068 ft (1,240 m)
 • Total1,664
 • Estimate 
 • Density590/sq mi (230/km2)
Time zoneUTC-7 (Mountain (MST))
 • Summer (DST)UTC-6 (MDT)
ZIP code
Area code(s)575
FIPS code35-17050
GNIS feature ID0897342


Early history (1891-1910s)Edit

Columbus was established in 1891 just across the Mexican border from Palomas, Chihuahua, Mexico, and named after 15th-century explorer Christopher Columbus. In 1902, the village was moved 3 miles north when the El Paso and Southwestern Railroad built its Columbus Station. This station is now converted into a museum run by the Columbus Historical Society.[2]

About 1905, it was a very small town with a community of about 100 residents, two of those early settlers being Colonel Andrew O. Bailey, and Louis Heller. By this time, Columbus had only one general store, a saloon, and a society inspector.[clarification needed] In time, a high school was built, and Perrow G. Mosely established the Columbus News, which later was renamed as the Columbus Courier. By 1915, the town had 700 residents, the Columbus State Bank was built, four hotels were constructed, and several stores and a Baptist church were also established. At that time, Columbus also possessed rich silver, copper, lead, and zinc deposits.[3]

1916 Pancho Villa raidEdit

Columbus after Villa's raid.

On March 9, 1916, on the orders of Mexican revolutionary leader Pancho Villa, (Colonel) Francisco Beltrán, (Colonel) Candelario Cervantes, (General) Nicolás Fernández, (General) Pablo López, and others led 500 men in an attack against the town, which was garrisoned by a detachment of the 13th Cavalry Regiment.[4] Villa's army burned a part of the town and killed seven or eight soldiers and 10 residents before retreating back into Mexico.

United States President Woodrow Wilson responded to the Columbus raid by sending 10,000 troops under Brigadier General John J. Pershing to Mexico to pursue Villa. This was known as the Punitive Mexican Expedition or Pancho Villa Expedition. The expedition was eventually called off after failing to find Villa, who had escaped.[5] The Pershing expedition brought prosperity and international attention to Columbus and a realization that war had come to the border of the United States[6]

From 1926 to the 1990sEdit

In 1926 after the Punitive Expedition ended, Columbus started to change and decay over the decades. Camp Furlong activity was greatly reduced. The army decided to close their camp, and the El Paso and Southwestern Railroad stopped service in Columbus. After all these events, the economy naturally faded over time.

In the 1990s Columbus started to revitalize, with the development of city and state parks, museums, RV parks, and history involving the city.[7]

2011 gun-smuggling scandalEdit

In July 2011, Columbus dissolved its police force after a gun-smuggling scandal that involved its village officials and others.[8] The mayor, a village trustee, a former police chief, and nine other people were indicted in the scandal.[8] The case was prosecuted by the United States Attorney from El Paso, Texas, before United States District Court Judge Robert Brack in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Of the 11 people charged, 10 pleaded guilty, with one person still at large. Sentences ranged from five years in federal prison to two years' probation.[9]


Columbus is located at 31°49′51″N 107°38′30″W / 31.83083°N 107.64167°W / 31.83083; -107.64167 (31.830760, -107.641558).[10]

According to the United States Census Bureau, the village has a total area of 2.8 square miles (7.3 km2), all land.

The village is about 3 miles north of the international border between the United States of America and Mexico. The Mexican village of Puerto Palomas, Chihuahua, is on the opposite side of the border.


Census Pop.
Est. 20161,623[1]−2.5%
U.S. Decennial Census[11]

As of the census[12] of 2000, there were 1,765 people, 536 households, and 411 families residing in the village. The population density was 635.3 people per square mile (245.1/km²). There were 720 housing units at an average density of 259.2 per square mile (100.0/km²). The racial makeup of the village was 70.42% White, 0.68% African American, 0.57% Native American, 0.06% Asian, 25.50% from other races, and 2.78% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 83.34% of the population.

There were 536 households out of which 50.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 61.8% were married couples living together, 10.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 23.3% were non-families. 20.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.29 and the average family size was 3.89.

In the village, the population was spread out with 39.2% under the age of 18, 7.7% from 18 to 24, 22.0% from 25 to 44, 18.6% from 45 to 64, and 12.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 28 years. For every 100 females, there were 100.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 99.6 males.

The median income for a household in the village was $13,773, and the median income for a family was $14,318. Males had a median income of $16,912 versus $12,344 for females. The per capita income for the village was $6,721. About 56.7% of families and 57.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 67.0% of those under age 18 and 20.2% of those age 65 or over.

In 2010, Columbus had the 21st-lowest median household income of all places in the United States with a population over 1,000.[13]


Columbus Elementary School is part of the Deming Public Schools District.

Columbus Elementary School is located 30 miles south of Deming, New Mexico and 3 miles north of Palomas, Chihuahua, across the border in Mexico. About 90% of the students come from homes where Spanish is the dominant language. The staff at Columbus Elementary is required to be bilingually endorsed or working toward bilingual endorsement. The mission of Columbus Elementary School is to build on the students' bicultural and bilingual environment; they work in partnership with the parents and the community to enable students to reach their full potential.[14]

Students from Columbus and Puerto Palomas attend Columbus Elementary from preschool up to sixth grade. Students then move on to attend Red Mountain Middle School (6-8) in Deming, Hofacket Mid-High School (9-12), and Deming High School (9-12).[15]

Deming Public Schools buses U.S. citizen students residing in Mexico (including the city of Palomas) from the United States-Mexico border to Columbus Elementary and to upper grades in Deming.[16][17]

Columbus Village LibraryEdit

Columbus Village Library, the town's only public library, is located at 112 West Broadway, Columbus, NM 88029. Around 22,386 visits to this local library occur annually. Columbus Village Library has 14,989 books and serial volumes, 343 audios, 1,428 videos, and 30 computers.[18]

City of the SunEdit

An intentional community called City of the Sun is on the northern edge of Columbus. Started in 1972, the community has many unique, experimental homes.[19] Members of the community aim "to serve the Divine Purpose in community living with other Light Seekers."[20]

In popular cultureEdit

Pancho Villa's raid on Columbus is depicted in the novel The Friends of Pancho Villa (1996) by James Carlos Blake. In Spring Break Adventure, the sixth film in The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones series, Indiana Jones and his cousin are in town during Pancho Villa's raid, and he ends up joining Pancho Villa's army.

Columbus features in the 2008 film The Shepherd: Border Patrol starring Jean-Claude Van Damme. The 1989 cult classic Sonny Boy has Columbus-based locations.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b "Population and Housing Unit Estimates". Retrieved June 9, 2017.
  2. ^ Reynolds, Joyce. Pancho Villa & Columbus, NM. JReynolds Photo & Computer Works, Deming NM. p. 1.
  3. ^ Sherman, James E.; Sherman, Barbara H. (1975). Ghost towns and mining camps of New Mexico. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. Publishing Divisinon. pp. 51–54. ISBN 0-8061-1106-2. Retrieved 11 February 2014.
  4. ^ Page, Walter Hines; Page, Arthur Wilson (April 1916). "The March Of Events: Making Mexico Understand". The World's Work: A History of Our Time. XXXI: 584–593. Retrieved 2009-08-04.
  5. ^ "U.S. Army Campaigns: Mexican Expedition". United States Army Center of Military History.
  6. ^ "Columbus New Mexico". History of the Columbus Raid. NMSU Board of Regents. Archived from the original on 19 July 2014. Retrieved 18 February 2014.
  7. ^ "The Village of Columbus NewMexico". Retrieved 2014-02-13.
  8. ^ a b Liz Goodwin (July 12, 2011). "New Mexico town dissolves police dept after gun smuggling scandal". Yahoo. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  9. ^ Brian Fraga. Former Columbus, N.M., mayor sentenced in gun-smuggling case. Las Cruces Sun-News. Posted: June 14, 2012 Archived June 16, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23.
  11. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". Archived from the original on April 26, 2015. Retrieved June 4, 2015.
  12. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on 2013-09-11. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
  13. ^ "US Census". Retrieved 18 January 2014.
  14. ^ "Columbus Elementary School - Columbus School Report Card".[permanent dead link]
  15. ^ "Growth/Enrollment Analysis 2006-2017 Deming Public Schools" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-06-22. Retrieved 2007-04-29.
  16. ^ Layton, Lyndsey (22 September 2013). "Children cross Mexican border to receive a U.S. education". The Washington Post. Retrieved 13 November 2013.
  17. ^ Viren, Sarah (August 29, 2007). "Mexican children cross border to go to school". Houston Chronicle.
  18. ^ "Columbus Village Library". Homefacts. Hidden Rocks, LLC. Retrieved 3 March 2014.
  19. ^ "City of the Sun". Mary and Keith's Excellent Adventure!. April 12, 2010.
  20. ^ "Bylaws (readopted 2006)". Member's webpage. Archived from the original on 2013-03-20. Retrieved March 6, 2013.

Further readingEdit

  • Morgan, Brandon. "Columbus, New Mexico: The Creation of a Border Place Myth, 1888–1916." New Mexico Historical Review 89.4 (2014) pp 481–504 online
  • Morgan, Brandon. "Columbus, New Mexico, and Palomas, Chihuahua: Transnational Landscapes of Violence, 1888-1930." (2013). online

External linksEdit