Sunland Park, New Mexico: Sierra de Cristo Rey, Christ of the RockiesImpressive, but reportedly it's sometimes a risky place to visit unless you're in a group.
Mount Cristo Rey, Christ of the Rockies: There are a handful of attractions in this country that are too remote to be casual destinations, or that frankly you'd have to be nuts to visit. But no attraction in America seems to be as much of a magnet for human assault as Mount Cristo Rey, a Catholic shrine on the U.S./Mexican border. [09/02/2008] Complete Story...
Visitor Tips and News About Sierra de Cristo Rey, Christ of the Rockies
Climbed to the top. Not at all as scary as people post here. Just a hike, some people, mostly friendly, some not. But none were antagonistic.[Marcus, 04/08/2008]
Before we were aware of the bad publicity as shown on the web, we took the hike to the top, two of us over the age of 60. We met others along the way, small groups or couples. We were not accosted or felt threatened in any way. Perhaps since the time of the other writings things have improved.
There is a sign asking you to contact the police department if hiking when mountain is not officially open.[S Hunter, 02/15/2008]
Right up along the Rio Grande there was the site of the real first Thanksgiving, in April of 1598. Predates the Pilgrims by about 23 years. We have Don Juan de Onate to thank for that.
The wee mountain on which Cristo Rey sits was once a mule-watering place (a favorite of the conquistadores), and also a good landmark for those who wanted to ford the Rio Grande. Urbici Soler was summoned up from Mexico City (he was a Spaniard hanging out in Mexico) in 1937; he conquered considerable obstacles to get the job done.
The Christ of the Rockies stands 42 feet in height and is an exemplar of goodwill between the US and Mexico. There are also the Stations of the Cross, but they tend to be vandalized by punks and yahoos from Anapra and Sunland Park. (Tip: there is a large casino and race track in Sunland Park, if you're into that kind of thing.)
The best time to go, without a doubt, is the last Sunday in October. There is a huge pilgrimage to the statue on that day, and the majority of pilgrims are hardcore Catholics with a Mexican Indian bent, which means that there is plenty of crawling and self-flagellation. Just be respectful of their customs, and you're more than welcome to come along.
On other dates, you may run afoul of banditry. There is safety in numbers, particularly -- and ironically -- when visiting the Christ of the Rockies.
Unless you have a remarkably tolerant sense of humor, don't go near it on St John the Baptist's Feast Day, lest you get nailed with a bucket of Rio Grande water.
As long as you're in the neighborhood, have a gander at the Guadalupe Mission in Ciudad Juarez (built by Spanish invaders in 1659), Stahmann Farms (largest pecan orchard in the world), the oldest continually active missions in the US (Ysleta, Socorro, and San Elizario), the Tiffany stained-glass dome at the Camino Real Hotel (Conrad Hilton's first property -- the dome would cost well over a million dollars to replace, if you made it in plastic; no one can put a price on the glass version), and please remember that, despite the banditry, El Paso is actually the third safest major city in the US.[John H Russell, 06/01/2003]
Update - July 2004 - Vandals have chipped away the toes of Jesus from the 42-ft. tall statue. Roving gangs that frequent the hilltop are suspected...
My grandparents live in El Paso and my mother and her 3 sisters spent some time there growing up. Sometime in the 1960s, they decided to walk up to this statue. On the way up they were accosted by a small boy asking for money or food or some such thing. Of course, my grandmother gave it to him. They got to the statue okay, but on the way down they were approached by the same boy and a couple of of his older and much larger friends. These men attempted to jump my grandfather and tell my grandmother to give them her purse, etc. Well...my grandfather had brought a pistol along with him and as soon as he pulled that sucker out and pointed at those men, off they ran. I guess it just goes to show that the more things change, the more things stay the same.
Of course, none of us grandkids have ever been allowed to go near that thing.[Aimee Jameson, 12/28/2002]