Chapter 5-1: Socorro History

I think my first impressions of Socorro were no better or worse than other newcomers to this small town in the heart of New Mexico. In fact, I think my first memories were quite positive, given some of the horror stories I've heard over the years.

Socorro lies seventy-five miles south of Albuquerque in the Rio Grande Valley. This is what I tell most Americans whom I meet on my travels, for simply saying I live in Socorro, New Mexico, tends to draw blank stares. On the other hand, when I inform these people that I grew up in Oxford, I am met with smiles and pleasant exchanges as they have nearly all heard of Oxford.

The town lies in the northern reaches of the Chihuahuan desert that extends from northern Mexico into southeastern Arizona, West Texas and southern New Mexico. The summer rains that form from storms moving inland from the Gulf of Mexico nourish the low growing creosote shrub and thorny mesquite bush. On stony south facing slopes gardens of spindly ocotillo and yuccas flourish. In this harsh landscape where dirt, pebbles, stones, and outcrops of hard rock dominate, erosion has carved out an array of colorful steep sided arroyos, deep narrow canyons, broken badlands, mesas, ridges and buttes. For a geologist it’s a paradise.