LaRed Latina of the Intermountain Southwest.

The History of Las Vegas

by Thomas Rodriguez,

The Las Vegas Valley was discovered in December of 1829 by Rafael Rivera, an eighteen year old Mexican Scout with the Antonio Armijo Trading Caravan out of abiquiu, New Mexico. The Armijo party was attempting to discover a new trade route from Santa Fe, N ew Mexico to Los Angeles, California. Rivera's discovery resulted in the "missing link" in what came to be known as the "Old Spanish Trail" which was used quite extensively as a trade route until 1849.

At the time of Rivera's discovery, the territory of Nevada was still a part of Mexico. On February 2, 1848, as a result of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, Mexico ceded to the United States present day Nevada, Utah, California, Arizona, Western Colorado a nd New Mexico for the sum of $15 Million.

There is even today great controversy and debate as to the questionable, and perhaps unethical political means, the United States used to acquire this vast territory from Mexico. This issue was best addressed by Ulysses S. Grant when he said,

"I do not think there was ever a more wicked war than that waged by the U.S. on Mexico."

A few Spanish land grants still survive today , and Hispanic land grant heirs still argue the United States should be forced to honor land rights they were promised in the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the Mexican War. (See a copy of the original Treaty.)

In 1905 the San Pedro, Los Angeles and Salt Lake Railroad founded the City of Las Vegas. The town remained relatively unpopulated until 1931 when work began on Hoover Dam. Hoover Dam, one of the seven man-made wonders of the modern world, was constructed in the years between 1931 to 1935.

In 1930, Assembly Bill 98, which came to be commonly known as the "Wide Open Gambling Bill" was passed by the Nevada Legislature. It was not until 1940, however, that major casino action in Nevada started to shift from Northern Nevada to Las Vegas. It was during this period of infancy that Tom Mix, a famous cowboy movie star of the day, prophesied that Las Vegas would one day become the "Entertainment Capital of the World."

By 1950, Las Vegas was well on its way toward fulfiling Mix's prophesy. With Celebrities like Lana Turner, Frank Sinatra and Howard Hughes frequenting new hotel resorts like the Flamingo and El Rancho, Las Vegas became front page news.

During this era, Las Vegas began a period of rapid population growth - a trend that continues to this day. With this growth came new families and people who were not content with Las Vegas's notorious open gambling image. These people wanted the image of Las Vegas "cleaned up."

In response, the State of Nevada established a State Gaming Commisson and began regulating the gaming industry as never before anywhere in this country. In Las Vegas, the State 's efforts were supported by independent local controls. Some of the effective methods used in Las Vegas to regulate gaming were zoning and land use controls, Liquor and gaming licensing code regulations, and building and fire codes that today include building and fire safety provisions which are considered among the toughest in the World.

Not surprisingly, as these landmark policies and controls were adopted and implemented, the public's perception of the gaming industry in Nevada improved tremendously. The results were the influx of major corporations such as Hilton, Ramada Inns, Summa an d Del Webb into the casino industry, and the trading of casino stock on the major stock exchanges. These events, of course, increased the legitimacy of the gaming industry and set the stage for the tremendous population explosion which has and still is oc curring in Las Vegas.

Today, there is nothing in all of the world quite like Las Vegas, the unchalleneged "Gaming Capital of the World." Las Vegas is home to 11 of the top 13 hotels in the world and has more hotel rooms than any other city in America. In 1994, a new record was set with over 28 million visitors. In addition, more than 19 billion was spent in Las Vegas/Clark County by tourist and conventioneers.

From all indications, there is no end in sight to the current building boom. Within the next two years, four major casino properties will open for business. They are the Monte Carlo - 3,000 rooms; Stratosphere Tower - 2,500 rooms and a 1,142 Stratospher e Tower; New York, New York - 2,159 rooms; and Bellagio, a 3,000 room casino resort touted as being the most luxorious hotel ever built in the world.

The Las Vegas area, however, is more than just casinos and huge hotels. Beyond the resorts lie a myraid of adventures and sights to partake in. To the Southeast are gigantic Hoover Dam and Lake Mead, an aquatic playland in the middle of the desert. To the North lies spectacular alphine scenery among the aspen draped slopes of Mt. Charleston and for those who want, and outstanding ski area. To the Northwest, is magnificent Red Rock Canyon and the Spring Mountains, with their brilliantly convered mountains of sandstone.

Another "must see" area is the "boom town of Laughlin," located 90 miles south of Las Vegas. Today, this little town on the Colorado River has become the second largest gaming nucleus in Nevada.

Las Vegas is also home to Nellis Air Force Base, the Nevada Test Site, the Running Rebels, the 1990 NCAA National Basketball Champions, the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, the Community College of Southern Nevada, and the Clark County School District, cu rrently the fastest growing school district in the country and 10th largest school district in the United States.

With an average of 310 days of sunshine each year and mild average temperatures, Las Vegans have a number of opportunities to enjoy outdoor recreation and a lifestyle second to none. Las Vegas has 27 major golf courses and a AAA Baseball Team in the Pacif ic Coast League. Las Vegas is also the "Boxing Capital of the World" and each year plays host to some of the biggest fights held in each weight division, many of which are held out doors.

Interestingly, Las Vegas is also becoming a multi-cultural melting pot of different races and ethnic groups. In fact, in 1995, the population of Las Vegas's minority groups numbered 254,927 persons, or 24.6 percent of the population. Hispanics comprise th e largest minority group population with 116,064 persons, or 11.2 percent of the population. As a result, today Las Vegas has a profusion of different peoples, cultures, languages, foods, music, arts, and attitudes, which collectively have produced a tre mendous diversity which has added new depth and richness to this remarkable city.

Clearly, the success of Las Vegas has been the result of unique and successful integration of the needs of government, business, and the community to create one of the most remarkable cities in the world, a city which will continue to be among the Leaders worldwide in innovative gaming experiment aimed at preserving gaming's worldwide appeal while simultaneously maintaining a rich, satisfying and diverse adult and family-oriented life-style.

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