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Socorro is a city in Socorro Countymarker in the U.S. state of New Mexicomarker. It stands in the Rio Grande Valley, at an elevation of 4579 feet (1396 m). The population was 8,879 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Socorro Countymarker .

History

The Founding of Socorro

In June 1598, Juan de Oñate led a group of Spanish settlers through the Jornada del Muerto, an inhospitable patch of desert that ends just south of the present day city of Socorro. As the Spaniards emerged from the desert, Piro Indians of the pueblo of Teypana gave the Spaniards food and water. Therefore, the Spaniards renamed this pueblo Socorro, which means "help" or "aid." Later, the name "Socorro" would be applied to the nearby Piro pueblo of Pilabó.

Nuestra Señora de Socorro , the first Catholic mission in the area, was probably established c. 1626. Fray Augustin de Ventancurt would later write that around 600 people lived in the area during this period.

During the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, Spanish refugees stopped in the pueblo of Socorro. A number of Piro Indians followed the Spaniards as they left the province to go south to safety. With no protection of Spanish troops, Socorro was destroyed and the remaining Piro were killed by the Apache and other tribes.

The Spanish did not initially resettle Socorro when they re-conquered New Mexicomarker. Other than El Pasomarker, there were no Spanish settlements south of Sabinal (which is approximately north of Socorro) until the 1800s. In 1800, governor Fernando Chacon gave the order to resettle Socorro and other villages in the area. However, Socorro was not resettled until about 1815. In 1817, 70 Belen residents petitioned the crown for land in Socorro. The 1833 Socorro census lists over 400 residents, with a total of 1,774 people living within the vicinity of the village.

The mission of San Miguel de Socorro was established soon after Socorro was resettled. The church was built on the ruins of the old Nuestra Señora de Socorro.

Territorial Period

In August 1846, during the Mexican American War, New Mexico was occupied by the American Army. In Las Vegas, New Mexicomarker, Colonel Stephen W. Kearny proclaimed New Mexico's independence from Mexico. On their way to begin their assault on Mexico, American troops stopped in Socorro. A British Officer Lt. George Ruxton commented that these soldiers were "unwashed and unshaven, were ragged and dirty, without uniforms..." and were lacking in discipline.

In September 1850, New Mexico became a territory of the United States. At the time, New Mexico encompassed what is now known as the states of New Mexico and Arizona. In 1850, the population of Socorro was only 543 people. This included 100 American soldiers who were soon moved to Valverde.

The first military post built near Socorro was Fort Conrad, south of the town. Built in August 1851, the fort was badly constructed and was abandoned for Fort Craig, located a few miles away. Fort Craig was first occupied on March 31, 1854.

Geography and Geology

"M" Mountain
is located at (34.061759, -106.899424) , south of Albuquerquemarker, at an average elevation of . The town lies adjacent to the Rio Grandemarker in a landscape dominated by the Rio Grande Rift and numerous extinct volcanos. The immediate region encompasses approximately of vertical relief between the Rio Grande and the Magdalena Mountainsmarker. Notable nearby locales include the Cibola National Forest, the BLM Quebradas Scenic Backcountry Byway, and the Bosque del Apachemarker and Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuges. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 14.4 square miles (37.4 km²), of which, 14.4 square miles (37.3 km²) of it is land and 0.04 square miles (0.1 km²) of it (0.21%) is water.

Demographics

As of the census of 2000, there were 8,877 people, 3,415 households, and 2,151 families residing in the city. The population density was 615.8 people per square mile (237.9/km²). There were 3,940 housing units at an average density of 273.3/sq mi (105.6/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 66.16% White, 0.74% African American, 2.77% Native American, 2.24% Asian, 0.06% Pacific Islander, 23.24% from other races, and 4.79% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 54.50% of the population.

There were 3,415 households out of which 31.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 43.5% were married couples living together, 14.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 37.0% were non-families. 29.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.44 and the average family size was 3.02.

In the city the population was spread out with 25.4% under the age of 18, 16.9% from 18 to 24, 25.7% from 25 to 44, 20.4% from 45 to 64, and 11.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 31 years. For every 100 females there were 106.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 106.6 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $22,530, and the median income for a family was $33,013. Males had a median income of $31,517 versus $23,071 for females. The per capita income for the city was $13,250. About 24.1% of families and 32.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 44.4% of those under age 18 and 23.6% of those age 65 or over.

The languages spoken at home were 62.41% English, 35.64% Spanish, 0.90% Chinese, 0.76% German, and 0.36% Navajo.

Notable people



New Mexico Tech

Socorro is home to the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technologymarker (New Mexico Tech), a state undergraduate and graduate (Ph.D. granting) university specializing in science and engineering. New Mexico Tech hosts a number of major research centers, such as the Energetic Materials Research and Testing Center (EMRTC), the IRIS Consortium Program for Array Seismic Studies of the Continental Lithosphere (PASSCAL) Instrument Center, the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources, Langmuir Laboratory for Atmospheric Physics, the National Cave and Karst Research Institute, and the Magdalena Ridge Observatorymarker. Also located on the campus is the NRAO (National Radio Astronomy Observatory) Array Operations Center, the headquarters for the Very Large Arraymarker and Very Long Baseline Array radiotelescopes. The Very Large Array itself is located west of Socorro, between Magdalenamarker and Datilmarker. The University of Texas at El Paso annually holds their summer football training camp at Tech Field. Tech is also host to the New Mexico Science Olympiad and New Mexico Science and Engineering Fair state competitions.

Socorro High School

Socorro has one public city-named high school in Class 1A/3A with a student body of about 600. The mascot is an Indian Warrior and the school colors are blue and white. School sports include Golf (B/G), Soccer (B/G), Track (B/G), Football (B), Baseball/Softball (B/G), Cheerleading (B/G), Charisma Dance (B/G), Swimming (B/G), Volleyball (G), and Basketball (B/G).The school also fields a competitive team for Science Olympiad, and Science Bowl. Arts at Socorro High include Concert and Jazz Band.

Zamora UFO Incident

Socorro is famous as the site of a well-publicized UFO incident. On April 24, 1964 Lonnie Zamoramarker, a local policeman, was chasing a speeder on Socorro's outskirts when he claimed he saw a bright flash and heard a loud roar coming from over a nearby hill. Believing that the noise may have come from the explosion of a dynamite shack, Zamora drove over the hill on top of a first mesa. From a distance he said he saw a white, oval-shaped object appearing to sit on two legs and two "small men" in what looked like "white coveralls" outside the craft. Thinking possibly an auto accident, he drove quickly on top of a second mesa with the object just below him. When he got there, he heard three loud thumps, like a tank hatch being slammed shut. The two small people were nowhere to be seen. He left his car to investigate, walked a little bit closer, noticed a red symbol on the side of the egg-shaped object, and that the object was still resting on "girder-like" legs. Then a bright blue "flame" erupted from the bottom of the object with a tremendous roar. Thinking the object was about to explode, he ran away past his car.(The UFO Book, ppgs.545-546)

He said he saw the object lift into the air, about 15 or 20 feet. It seemed to be suspended there for a few seconds, became completely silent, and then made a rapid horizontal departure towards the nearby mountains to the South-southwest, traveling over the nearby dynamite shack in a straight line for a distance of about two miles to where a mine sat at the base of the mountains. Then it angled sharply up, rapidly rose, and faded out in the distance above the mountains.

Zamora called for help on his radio. Sergeant M.S. Chavez of the New Mexico State Police soon arrived on the scene. Chavez later said that Zamora looked "terrified"; ground foliage and nearby bushes had been badly burned, some of it still smoldering. There were also four rectangular, wedge-shaped indentations in the ground where Zamora said he had seen the object resting on legs. There were more marks possibly resembling small footprints where Zamora had seen the small people standing, and several shallow round holes. More police arrived on the scene within minutes; an Army intelligence officer from White Sands and an FBI agent joined them in searching the area for clues within two hours. They found no track evidence of anybody being there or possible hoaxing paraphernalia. Soil and plant samples were taken and when analyzed showed no foreign matter or evidence of chemical propellants that could account for the burning.

Project Blue Book, the US Air Force's official study of the UFO mystery, also sent investigators to Socorro, including their astronomer consultant Dr. J. Allen Hynek. They interviewed Zamora and Chavez, and also checked the supposed landing site. Project Blue Book's supervisor, Captain Hector Quintanilla, later wrote that the Socorro case was the best documented and most puzzling one in their files. "There is no doubt that Lonnie Zamora saw an object which left quite an impression on him. There is no question about Zamora's reliability." Quintanilla ruled out hoax and thought maybe Zamora had seen some secret U.S. craft, though a thorough search disclosed no such craft that could account for the object.(UFO Book, p. 554)

However, two prominent UFO skeptics both offered various explanations for Zamora's sighting. Dr. Donald Menzel offered two explanations: that Zamora had been the victim of an elaborate prank by local teenagers, or that Zamora had actually seen a dust devil. Philip Klass, a writer for Aviation Week magazine, would claim that Zamora and Socorro's then-mayor had hoaxed the event to bring tourists to Socorro. Investigator Hynek wrote Menzel a lengthy rebuttal letter to the hoax idea a year after the event.

Media Sightings

Socorro was mentioned in the 1974 movie Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, though in a somewhat derogatory sense, as Ellen Burstyn's character decided to leave the town for Tucson. The aftermath scene of Bustyn's character's husband's fatal accident at the beginning of the film, although implied as being in Socorro, was actually filmed in Tucsonmarker.

The 1971 Roger Corman movie Gas-s-s-s was filmed in and around Socorro, including a hilarious scene using the New Mexico Techmarker golf carts.

The actress Jodie Foster stayed in Socorro while filming the movie Contact at the Very Large Arraymarker fifty miles west of the city.

Elfego Baca Golf Shoot

The Elfego Baca Golf Shoot is named after a former mayor of Socorro who survived a gun battle near what is now Reserve, New Mexicomarker involving over 4,000 bullets that were fired over the course of 36 hours. Teeing off from Socorro Peak, also known as M Mountain, at an altitude of , golfers proceed down the side of the mountain some 2,550 vertical feet to the one hole almost three miles (5 km) away. Surviving rattlesnakes, gnats, cacti, treacherous terrain and the New Mexican sun and heat, golfers have a chance at winning the title to what is considered one of the two most difficult golf courses in the world.

Mike Stanley, an employee of the EMRTC, has won or tied for the win a record 18 times in the history of the shoot which dates back to 1960.

Points of interest



Arts and Music

Socorro is home to many artists and musicians. Local artists include: Liz Poulin Alvarez, Karyn DeBont, G.E. Grey, Sharon Fullingim, Natasha Isenhour, Skeeter Leard, Margi Lucena, and Jan Thomas. There are also frequent gallery exhibitions and studio events in Socorro. Notable musicians and bands include: Suzanne Barteau, J.C. Campbell, Johnny Dean, Jeanne Dixon, Mariam Funke, Bill Giebitz, Toby Jaramillo, Ronna Kalish, Terry Kincaid, Rob Long, Carlos Marerro, Marian Royal, Jim Ruff, Mary Templeton, David Wooten, Lead Sol, and many others. Live music is played weekly at local bars and restaurants in town, particularly at the Capitol Bar, Socorro Springs Brew Pub, The Stage Door, and the Manzanares Street Coffeehouse. In addition to local performers, many musicians visit Socorro as part of New Mexico Tech's Performing Arts Series.

Steppin' Out, a bi-monthly tabloid covering fine art and cultural events in New Mexico, is published in Socorro.

An up-to-date listing of music events in and around Socorro can be found at socorromusic.com.

Zamora UFO Reference

  • The UFO Book: Encyclopedia of the Extraterrestrial, Jerome Clark, author. Visible Ink Press, 1998. ppgs. 545-558


Footnotes

External links




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