This map plots the settings and references in The Crossing
To start exploring, click a red pin
New Mexico is located in the southwest and western regions of the United States.
With a population density of 16 per square mile, New Mexico is the sixth-most sparsely inhabited U.S. state, and the south of Hidalgo, where the Parhams live, one of the least populated areas within New Mexico.
The territory of New Mexico is mostly covered by mountains, high plains, and desert. The climate is generally semi-arid to arid, although New Mexico also receives winter snow in its higher elevation in the mountains.
While Billy spends a brief period of time in the neighbouring states of Arizona and Texas, most of the novel’s U.S. setting takes place in southern New Mexico.
Ranch Life in Early 1940s New Mexico
Ranchers would have lived a hard spare life at a time when America was only just beginning to recover from the Depression. It would have been even harder in southern Hidalgo Country, a region not known for nothing as the Big Empty.
New Mexico had been among the poorest states in the Union in the 1920s and it went from bad to worse with the onset of the Depression. American farms and ranches were hit particularly hard with over one million American families losing their farms between 1930 and 1934.
Southwesterners, though, have always held a reputation for being hardworking and frugal, priding themselves on a history of self reliance. New Mexicans like the Parhams would very much consider themselves heirs to a pioneering tradition.
The Parhams own a cattle ranch and daily duties would involve rounding up cattle, feeding and caring for the livestock and horses, and various other duties. They would work long hours on an often physically demanding job.
Not an easy life, then, but one Billy Parham was born to and clearly loves, making the passing of that way of life in the novel so much more poignant.
Hidalgo County was formed on February 25th, 1919, after annexation from its neighbouring Grant County. This was mainly done to shorten the distance that the people of Lordsburg and towns to the south had to travel to reach Silver City, the county seat.
Hidalgo County is also known colloquially as the Bootheel of New Mexico after its distinctive shape.
The Animas Peaks are the highest section of the Animas mountain range, located in southern Hidalgo County near the border with Mexico.
The Animas Mountains form the southernmost portion of the Continental Divide in the United States, with the northern terminus of the range lying just a few miles west of the town of Animas and the southern point northwest of Cloverdale.
The Peloncillo Mountains range from Hidalgo County into Cochise County, Arizona, and into the northwest of the state. The range is sometimes referred to as Little Baldy, a literal translation of the Spanish Peloncillo.
The Animas Valley begins in western Hidalgo County and extends for approximately 85 miles southwards into the northwest of the Chihuahuan Desert in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. This long narrow valley is bordered by the Peloncillo Mountains to the west and to the east by a series of mountain ranges which make up the Continental Divide of the Americas.
Cloverdale began around 1889, when the Victor Land and Cattle Company purchased the nearby Cloverdale Ranch. After other ranches sprang up the community became known as Cloverdale. At its height, the town had a population of about two hundred people.
Now a deserted ghost town, all that remains is an old store, an abandoned flagstone house and the wooden dance pavilion which Billy passes in the novel.
The Sierra de la Cabellera is a mountain range in Sonora, Mexico.
The town thrived until the summer of 1912 when the outbreak of the Mexican Revolution instigated a mass exodus. The following year Joseph F. Smith, President of the Mormon Church, dissolved the commitment binding the colonists to Morelos and officially sanctioned its abandonment.
In 1921, Colonia Morelos and the surrounding land was sold to the Mexican government.
In the 2010 census the town had a population of 77,254 people, making it the seventh-largest community in the state.
McCarthy is likely referring to the Llano de Carretas (Plain of Carts) which extends west from the Rio Casas Grandes at Janos to the high passes to Sonora.
The territory of Utah had been home to the Mormons since the mid-19th century after they settled in the Salt Lake Valley area.
In 1896 Utah was admitted into the U.S. statehood, with the condition that a ban on polygamy was written into the state constitution. Many Mormons unwilling to give up the practice relocated to Mexico, joining the other colonists in Sonora and Chihuahua who had already fled America after specific laws prohibiting plural marriage were passed by U.S. Congress in the 1870s and 1880s.
In 1857 Caborca was the scene of a heroic defence against a force of American filibusters led by Henry Alexander Crabb seeking to annex Sonora to the United States.
After defeating a detachment of Mexican soldiers, Crabb’s men approached Caborca where the townsfolk took refuge in the church. After trying unsuccessfully to blast them out with cannon, the Americans occupied an adobe house across from the church. Soon Mexican reinforcements arrived and surrounded the adobe. After a six-day siege, Crabb and his men finally surrendered. They were each summarily executed the next morning, except for one 16-year-old boy. Crabb was decapitated and his head preserved in a jar of mescal. McCarthy must have been aware of the story when he came to write Blood Meridian as the same grisly fate befalls the filibustering Captain White in that earlier novel.
Caborca, the little desert town that held off a small army, was immortalised and given the new name of Heroica Caborca in 1949.
In alerting the media to his plans, Crabb made the fatal error of surrendering the element of surprise, but it has left to posterity an almost step-by-step account of the doomed enterprise. Click here.
The 1887 Sonora earthquake occurred in the Teras mountain range of northwestern Mexico. The town of Bavispe suffered the most casualties with 42 deaths. The church of San Miguel de Bavispe was completely destroyed and every home in the village left uninhabitable.
As an interesting sidenote, according to the Aztec cosmic calendar, we are now in the fifth age in a cycle of creation and destruction - this epoch to be destroyed by earthquakes.
The settlement of Santa María de Bacerac was actually founded in the year 1645 by the Jesuit missionary Cristóbal García in Opata Indian territory.
Since 1493, the Kingdom of Spain had maintained a number of missions throughout Mexico, in order to spread the Christian doctrine among the local natives and facilitate Spanish colonisation.
These missions were particularly needed in Sonora, populated as it was by a number of disparate ethnicities which meant the Spanish could not simply co-opt one empire for domination purposes as they had done with the Aztecs in central Mexico. In addition, there was fierce Yaqui resistance to European intrusion on their lands.
Jesuit priests began to work in the Sonora area in the 1610s. They initially worked out a peaceful compromise with the 30,000 Yaquis allowing for the establishment of more than fifty mission settlements in the Sonora river valleys, before moving onto Opata, Pima and Tohono O’odham territories. Spanish exploration and missionary work was sufficient to consider the territory part of New Spain by 1637.
Founded in 1892, Colonia Oaxaca was the sixth Mormon colony built in Sonora and Chihuahua towards the end of the 19th century.
In 1905 the town was devastated by flooding, and the settlement was abandoned. Most of the colonists relocated to Colonia Morelos or Colonia San Jose.
The Dos Cabezas Mountains are a mountain range in southeasternmost Arizona. Dos Cabezas means Two Heads in Spanish, after the twin granite peaks, Dos Cabezas Peaks, which sit atop the range.
The Mormon colony at Colonia Juárez was established in 1886. Although the town was planned before the U.S. government banned the practice of polygamy, much of its growth in the late 19th century was due to Mormon immigrants leaving Utah and other parts of the U.S to escape persecution.
The town thrives to this day and is known for its peach and apple orchards, as well as its renowned Mormon school the Academia Juarez.
Also known as Gran Chichimeca and Casas Grandes (‘Big Houses’), the Paquimé civilization dates back to the 8th century and became the major Indian trading settlement in northern Mexico during the 14th and 15th centuries. At its peak, the local population is estimated to have been around 10,000.
Paquimé rapidly declined in influence following the Spanish Conquest of Mexico and was finally abandoned in the 17th century after further Spanish colonisation displaced many of the indigenous peoples in the surrounding area.
There were two major battles at Torreón, not including Villa’s original taking of the city on May 15, 1911.
The First Battle of Torreón was fought on September 29, 1913, when Villa recaptured Torreón from federal forces.
The Second Battle of Torreón took place from March 26 to April 2, 1914, with Villa once again the victor after driving off a 10,000 strong federal garrison.
It is unclear which specific battle is being referred to in the novel.
Los Alegres De Teran – La Toma De Torreon (The Taking of Torreón)
Founded in 1881, Deming is the county seat of Luna County, New Mexico.
Deming was an important point of entry on the U.S.-Mexican border until the borderline extended further south following the Gadsen Purchase of 1853.
The Battle of Kwajalein was part of the United States' World War II Pacific campaign. The conflict was fought from January 31 to February 3, 1944, on Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. By the end of the battle, 373 Americans, 7,870 Japanese (including forced Korean labourers), and an estimated 200 Marshallese islanders were killed.
As oblique an ending as McCarthy as written, but taking a rough estimate of the dates in the novel and Billy's location, it seems clear McCarthy is referring to the Trinity Nuclear Test, which took place on July 16, 1945, at Alamogordo, New Mexico.
Following the success of the Trinity test, two atomic bombs were prepared for use against Japan during World War II. The two bombs subsequently dropped on Hiroshima on August 6 and Nagasaki, on August 9, killed at least 148,000 people immediately and many more over time. By 1950, the death toll was over 340,000.