The cattiest bar in New Mexico

Plenty of bars have gone to the dogs.

Here’s one that has gone to the cats.

Veer right off Highway 14 before you get to Madrid, New Mexico, and you end up in a little town called Los Cerrillos, according to some of the signs; just Cerrillos, according to others, on which the “Los” has been lost.

In the once-thriving mining town, the paved roads turn to dirt — even Main Street is dirt. But if you come down Main Street and hook a right at the first stop sign, you’re at the front porch of Mary’s Bar, one of a handful of business enterprises in town and one where, on the day I visited at least, there were more cats than clientele.

“They keep me company when we don’t have any customers,” said the bars’s owner, 95-year-old Mary Mora, who sat at a table next to a wood burning fireplace.

Mary runs the bar with help from her daughter, Kathy, who is responsible for bringing in all the cats.

Not too long ago there were six. Now they’re down to five — Sashi, Stringbean and Lucifer among them.

All were unwanted, and some had been abused, Kathy says. One had been wrapped in Christmas lights by children. One was being held up outside a PetSmart by a man who said his pit bull was eating the litter and he had to get rid of him. Another was being forfeited because he scratched a family member.

Kathy, who can’t understand such behavior, took them all in — most are from Albuquerque — got them checkups and shots, and gave them new homes at the bar, which the Moras live in as well. She doesn’t try to find them homes. She just gives them one.

Originally built as a general store in 1918, the bar was known simply as the Cerrillos Bar until a crew filming the 1998 movie “Vampires” used the town as a set for part of the film.

The crew put up the “Mary’s Bar” signs and nobody ever took them down, photographer Christopher Crawford relates on his website, which features a fine collection of Mary’s Bar photos.

The bar was also used for the “Young Guns” movies as well, and Mary, the daughter of Italian immigrant, says she cooked spaghetti and meatballs for Emilio Estevez and Lou Diamond Phillips.

Los Cerrillos was once a thriving gold and turquoise-mining community — lead, zinc and silver as well — and it is said turquoise from here made its way into the Spanish Crown Jewels. At one point, the Spanish  considered making Los Cerrillos the capitol of Nuevo Mexico. During the 1800’s, the town sported 4 hotels and 21 saloons.

Now, it’s a sleepy little community, home to a Catholic mission, some artists, a trading post/junk store that features a petting zoo and a “scenic view” that, to be honest, is not too extremely scenic, and Mary’s Bar, where the proprietor is approaching the century mark, customers are few, clutter rules, and cats are king.

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