Located in Tularosa Basin in White Sands, New Mexico, the name of the National Monument could not be more fitting. Glistening white sands in wave-like dunes engulf over 275 square miles of New Mexico desert. New Mexico’s treasure is the world’s largest gypsum sand dunesfield. The dunes are located in Southern New Mexico between the Sacramento and San Andreas mountain ranges. Many travelers visit the area for camping, biking, hiking, and even sledding.
The first visitors to the area were Spanish explorers over ten thousand years ago. They brought with them the second treasure of New Mexico’s Tularosa Basin, the Pavla Blanca. Described as the ghost of the great white sands, the dunes are haunted by the ghost of a Spanish maiden who roams the dunes after sunset, searching for her lost love.
The legend goes that back in 1540, Spanish conquistadors were in search of national treasures. Francisco Coronado was one of the most successful conquistadors. He approached Hernando de Luna to join him on his quest for new adventures and rumors of unearthed treasures.
Hernando had just married Manuela, a beautiful Spanish maiden. Though newly married and deeply in love, Hernando joined Coronado and promised to return home to Manuela as soon as he could. He promised her riches and jewels when he returned to Mexico City.
Manuela waited for her betrothed, faithfully keeping house and home. Unfortunately, Hernando de Luna and his group of travelers was ambushed by the Apache in the desert. They fought as hard and valiantly as they could, but were no match for the strong Apache warriors. The Spanish were at a great disadvantage to the traveling Apaches. Apaches were known to raid the Spanish villages and were skilled fighters. Many of the Spanish died in the desert, others fled back to Mexico City.
Manuela saw the explorers returning in small groups back to Mexico City. She anxiously searched each face, looking for the eyes of her husband. After a few days, Hernando de Luna did not return. Despite warnings from friends and family that it was not safe, Manuela was determined to find her love and set out to the White Sand dunes. She was never seen again.
Now affectionately referred to as the Pavla Blanca, or the little white one, she roams the dunes in her flowing, white wedding dress, calling out for her lover who was likely buried and lost beneath the dunes. People say that she has remained there since 1540, never giving of hope of being reunited with her lost husband. Many of the stories that involve the poor widow seem to paint her as a sad, but peaceful spirit. Others paint a different story of both the woman and the dunes.
A book written by Ray John de Aragon refers to this as La Pavura Blanca, the white dread. It is arguable that he means Maneula fills those who see her with dread as perhaps she seeks vengeance for her loss. Others argue the book refers to the dunes, that dreadful white dust dunes that cover those who stumble into their depths and are lost forever.