Visit Las Cruces honors pioneering women in tourism
LAS CRUCES — When country music megastar Garth Brooks planned to make a stop on his 2017 world tour in Las Cruces, his team and concert planners faced several hurdles that cast doubt on a show — not to mention talk about five, in fact – which could be held at Mexico State University’s New Pan American Center.
The limited size of the venue’s tunnel entrance on the Pan Am floor presented difficulties that would require the crew to disassemble sections of the massive tour stage before it could be taken inside of the building. The sections should then be reassembled once on Pan American soil. It was a daunting task and no road crew wanted to deal with all the complexities.
Enter Garth Brooks, who insisted on stopping the Pan American Center world tour as a personal thank you to his longtime friend and mentor Barbara Hubbard, the former director of special events at NMSU who retired in 1996 but has always worked tirelessly to attract artists to Las Cruces. .
Brooks’ World Tour sold out five shows and drew more than 60,000 fans to Las Cruces over a three-day period in April 2017. Audiences from 47 states bought tickets for the shows, and Barbara Hubbard’s Legacy has been cemented – if it wasn’t already. — as a pioneer in promotions and local tourism.
In honor of Women’s History Month 2022, Visit Las Cruces, the city’s convention and visitor bureau, honors Hubbard and three other women for their contributions to tourism that have spanned decades and have helped put Las Cruces on the road map of travel destinations.
Along with Hubbard, Visit Las Cruces honors Janet Green, former New Mexico Tourism Secretary and former director of the Hotel, Restaurant, and Tourism Management Program at New Mexico State University; Jerean Hutchinson, owner of La Posta de Mesilla and former regent of New Mexico State University; and Belia Alvarez, regional general manager of Las Cruces Heritage Hotels and current commissioner of the Tourism Commission of the New Mexico Department of Tourism.
“These women are pioneers in tourism and hospitality in southern New Mexico,” said Rochelle Miller-Hernandez, director of Visit Las Cruces. “Our tourism and hospitality industry wouldn’t be where it was if it weren’t for the dedication and contributions of these amazing women.”
Barbara Hubbard, affectionately known as “Mother Hubbard,” served as Director of Special Events at NMSU from 1968 to 1996 and is credited with bringing the very first concert to the Pan American Center. Over the years, Hubbard attracted many artists of all genres to Las Cruces and employed thousands of students to work the gigs. The Hubbard American Collegiate Talent Showcase Scholarship Program has provided internships in the performing arts to hundreds of students across the United States.
Hubbard will undoubtedly be best known for bringing some of the biggest names in entertainment to Las Cruces including Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood, George Strait, Tina Turner, Charlie Pride, U2, KISS, Bob Hope, The Eagles, Pearl Jam, Whitney Houston, Foreigner, Jeff Dunham, Carrie Underwood, Brad Paisley, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Elton John, Billy Joel, Van Halen, Prince and Metallica. Professional boxing cards, wrestling matches, circuses and other traveling extravaganzas brought thousands of additional visitors to Las Cruces during Hubbard’s illustrious career.
“For many years, the biggest tours traveled along Interstate 10 and found a temporary home for a day or two in Las Cruces,” Miller-Hernandez said. “Barbara Hubbard’s shows at the Pan American Center have drawn audiences from El Paso, Albuquerque, Tucson and beyond. The tourism revenue generated over the years by Barbara’s tireless promotions is impossible to measure, but it’s safe to say that her dedication has contributed greatly to our community.
Janet Green, inducted into the New Mexico Tourism Hall of Fame in 2004, has been a force in the tourism industry throughout her career. Green has served as New Mexico’s tourism secretary, director of the hotel, restaurant, and tourism management program at New Mexico State University, and chairman of the board of directors for the convention bureau and visitors to Las Cruces. Green, who retired in 2018 as Special Assistant to the Chancellor of New Mexico State University, has made countless significant strides in the region’s tourism industry.
Green served as director of NMSU’s successful Rural Economic Development Through Tourism Project for three years. REDTT has focused on working with 17 New Mexico counties to pursue tourism development as an economic growth strategy. REDTT provides hospitality training to frontline employees in rural and tribal communities.
“Janet has been and continues to be a strong supporter of tourism and hospitality in Las Cruces. We are extremely grateful to call Janet a confidante and trusted friend to the Southern New Mexico tourism industry,” said Miller-Hernandez.
Jerean Camunez Hutchinson, former regent of New Mexico State University and longtime partner in the region’s tourism industry, co-owns La Posta de Mesilla with her husband Tom. Jerean and Tom bought La Posta de Mesilla in 1996 from Jerean’s great-aunt and elevated the restaurant’s status over the years.
La Posta de Mesilla, one of New Mexico’s oldest and most historic restaurants, opened in 1939 and is housed in an 1840s adobe building listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Jerean, a member of the College of Business Hall of Fame at New Mexico State University, ensures La Posta serves authentic New Mexican cuisine and embraces local farm-to-table principles, using as many grown ingredients and produced locally as possible.
Jerean also owns Hacienda de Mesilla, the only Boutique Hotel, Grille and Cantina in Mesilla. She is also the founder of the Mesilla Jazz and Blues Festival.
“La Posta is a must-visit restaurant destination for just about anyone traveling to Las Cruces and Mesilla,” Miller-Hernandez said. “We are proud of the work Jerean has done to create an atmosphere that is loved by locals and tourists alike.”
Belia Alvarez is the Regional General Manager of Las Cruces Heritage Hotels and Resorts, including the unique Las Cruces experience of the Encanto Hotel and the Hilton Garden Inn. Alvarez currently serves on the Tourism Commission of the New Mexico Department of Tourism and the Advisory Board of the Las Cruces Convention and Visitors Bureau. She previously served on the board of the New Mexico Hospitality Association.
Alvarez, who has over 25 years of experience in the hospitality and tourism industry, is the current president of the Las Cruces Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Alvarez has also served as an ambassador for Spaceport America and executive director of the New Mexico Multi-Cultural Foundation for Heritage Hotels and Resorts.
“Tourism in Las Cruces and southern New Mexico has been a thriving industry over the years. It helps employ thousands in the industry and provides great adventures for locals and visitors alike,” Miller-Hernandez said. “Belia Alvarez has been at the forefront of providing services that positively contribute to tourism and the culture of hospitality in our region.”
Women’s History Month is a poignant opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments and contributions of these four women who pioneered tourism in southern New Mexico. They have helped put Las Cruces on the map by promoting the region’s rich cultural and agricultural heritage, its breathtaking lifestyle and scenery, as well as its hospitality and culinary wonders.
Visit Las Cruces would like to thank Barbara Hubbard, Janet Green, Jerean Hutchinson and Belia Alvarez – and many others who continue to contribute to the thriving tourism and hospitality industry in southern New Mexico. Their dedication has helped promote the area and make Las Cruces and surrounding communities a vibrant, welcoming and exciting place for visitors.
To learn more about tourism in Las Cruces and southern New Mexico, go to VisitLasCruces.com.