Santa Rita, New Mexico

Santa Rita, New Mexico was a copper mining town.  It has one of the largest open pit mines in the world.

Below is a photograph of Santa Rita circa 1915.  Notice the dust rising from the pit over the town.

1915.Santa Rita

After a hundred of years of blasting and moving earth, this is what you get — no more Santa Rita:

Santa Rita Space

At the time that Manuel Chavez and Rita De La O and their family lived in Santa Rita in the early 1920s, the Chino Cooper Company owned the mine and controlled the town.  It was a company town.  It was a harsh place to live and work.

According to a study of miners who worked at Santa Rita, the mining company had “distinct job differences as well as two separate payrolls for the Anglo and the Hispanic employees.”  (Santa Rita, New Mexico Community Report of Sociology, p. 4.)  “An informant reported ‘the bathrooms were segregated.’ … This segregation … pervaded all aspects of local life from lodging to sanitation, wages and type of occupation.”  (Ibid.)

The following are excerpts from Terrence M. Hubble and Christopher J. Huggard, Santa Rita de Cobre: Mining the American West (University Press of Colorado, 2012):

  • “In that isolated camp, the corporation enticed workers with certain amenities and then constricted them and their families.  They lived according to a strict policy of segregation by ethnicity.  Mexicans and Mexican Americans lived in ‘East ‘ Santa Rita and the Anglos in Santa Rita, divided by a valley just east of the ‘Devil’s backbone.’  Company law enforcers also kept out union organizers whom the company official called ‘agitators.’  Until the post-World War II period, company management limited inhabitants movements, restricted Hispanics’ occupation advancements, coerced them into buying company store products …”
  • The “steady persistence of mine operations ate away the ground at Santa Rita.”
  • “Santa Rita no longer exists.  It is not even a ghost town.  Locals know it as the ‘town in space.’  During the course of the twentieth century, mining companies literally dug up the ground beneath the copper camp.”

The book Santa Rita de Cobre: Mining the American West is available at Amazon HERE.

To see the geological consequences of the mining in Santa Rita, click HERE.


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