My blogs have been a bit scarce for the last week because we were entertaining our daughter and two small grandchildren from Austin for the first time in more than a year.
Our week consisted of daily hikes around the area to see things we thought everyone would enjoy experiencing. We visited Slot Canyon, the Bosque Trail by the Rio Grande, the Organ Mountain-Desert Peaks National Monument, Prehistoric Trackways National Monument and the Tortugas Dam with its spectacular artwork by Kathy Morrow (if you haven’t seen it, it’s really worth the trip.)
At the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument, we visited the cave in the La Cuevas rock structure that was once inhabited by a hermit in the mid 1860s. Giovanni Maria de Agostini, an Italian, wandered around Europe, South America, Canada and New Mexico before settling in Las Cruces in a cave (actually an overhanging rock formation) near the base of the Organ Mountains. He befriended several people in nearby Mesilla and became known for his healing powers.
His friends warned him of the dangers of living in the cave so far from civilization, but he insisted on the solitude it offered. However, he promised his friends in Mesilla that he would light a fire in front of his cave every Friday night to assure them he was still alive. The fire, it was said, was clearly visible in Mesilla, almost 20 miles away.
“I shall make a fire in front of my cave every Friday evening while I shall be alive. If the fire fails to appear, it will be because I have been killed. I shall bless you daily in my prayers,” he reportedly told his friends.
One Friday night in 1869, the fire failed to glow from the base of the Organ Mountains. Friends rushed to the hermit’s cave the next morning and found him dead, laying on his crucifix with a knife in his back. His murder was never solved.
Just like the sun reflecting semaphores used on top of the Robledo Mountains by the soldiers at Fort Selden in the late 1800s, men have used light to communicate over long distances before telephones were invented or even telegraphs were widely in use. In Giovanni’s case, his method of communicating with his friends was innovative, but it in the end, it wasn’t fast enough to save him.