History Crosses Borders

Lisa Jennings The route north from Mexico City along the El Camino Real, or the Royal Highway, first brought travelers to “Nuevo Espana” in the 16th century, but tourism officials have launched a new program to bring travelers back to the historic roadway. Don Juan de Onate is the first reported to hav

By: Lisa Jennings

The route north from Mexico City along the El Camino Real, or the Royal Highway, first brought travelers to “Nuevo Espana” in the 16th century, but tourism officials have launched a new program to bring travelers back to the historic roadway.

Don Juan de Onate is the first reported to have traveled along El Camino Real in 1598 into what is now New Mexico. Now the trail is the basis for a cooperative effort between New Mexico and the state of Chihuahua, Mexico, to draw in tourists.

The two states have launched the Two-Nation Vacation, a road map that takes travelers along El Camino Real. The map also promotes lots of day trips off the route, including Mexico’s Copper Canyon, Parque Nacional Barranca del Cobre and Nuevos Casas Grandes, as well as New Mexico’s Taos, Los Alamos, Santa Fe and the Turquoise Trail.

“El Camino Real is the perfect link combining the two cultures,” said Fred Peralta, former New Mexico Tourism Department secretary. “The Two-Nation Vacation will give visitors to both countries the opportunity to see what we have in common state fairs and fiestas, eco-tourism, adventure travel and scenic byways as well as our differences.”

The agreement includes plans for a Web site to promote each destination, and the two states will exchange billboards encouraging Mexican tourists to visit New Mexico and visa versa.

Educational seminars are also planned for travel agents on both sides, though Chihuahua officials have not yet set dates for training U.S. agents. New Mexico officials have held one training session for Mexico agents, and a second is planned in the fall to promote the state’s winter sport activities, said Mark Trujillo, North American tour trade director for the New Mexico Tourism Department. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson has also initiated discussions to establish air service between Albuquerque, Chihuahua and Mexico City.

Trujillo said the Two-Nation Vacation has been successful, and has drawn the attention of other border states. Officials have called New Mexico to ask how they might set up similar two-nation tourism efforts, and governors of all border states are meeting in Santa Fe this month to discuss improving cross-border relations.

Konstantino Panagiotou T., Chihuahua’s director of tourism, said the brochure and Web site would “help us create a package offering the ultimate travel experience. We have so many things to share. Not only will it help introduce our market to New Mexico and visa versa, it will help open up both markets to the world.”

The Two-Nation Vacation map is available at visitor information centers and hotels throughout New Mexico. To order a brochure, call the New Mexico State Department of Tourism.

800-545-2070

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