Directed by : Stéphane Goël

Genre : Documentary

Duration : 72′

Year : 1993

Original version : French, English

Subtitles : French, English, German

West of the Pecos

In the fall of 1891, almost two hundred French-speaking Swiss emigrated to the Pecos Valley, a desert region in southeastern New Mexico. Intense promotion in our country of the miraculous transformations brought about by irrigation had convinced them that they could make their fortune there. Farmers, winegrowers or young adventurers from good families, the Swiss settlers would spend two years trying to obtain the fabulous harvests they had been promised. To no avail. Nothing, or almost nothing, grew on the Pecos lands. The irrigation system was totally defective, and unable to fertilize the soil, which was constantly swept away by persistent winds. Its canals also carried unsanitary water, the consumption of which led to the deaths of many children in the Helvetic colony. In August 1893, after two years of drought, a flood washed away most of the Pecos Irrigation Company’s infrastructure. Ruined and bankrupt, but above all convinced that they had been cheated, the Swiss settlers returned to their homeland or left to try their luck elsewhere on American soil. With the exception of a handful whose descendants still live in the Pecos…

“West of the Pecos is a major work, solid in its historical references, poignant in its subject matter, breathing the wide open space with compassion. It is technically superb and reveals this young filmmaker as one of our best.”
Bertil Galland, Le Nouveau Quotidien


The modern history of the Pecos Valley begins in 1866. On this date, Charles Goodnight and Oliver Loving, two cowboys who lead their herds through the desert expanses of New Mexico, venture into this region in which only the Apaches Mescaleros have so far established their camps. From “terra incognita”, the Pecos valley becomes a place of passage for the great South-North migrations of cattle. A year later, eighty thousand cows stamp their hooves on the ground on which the town of Eddy will soon stand. Their owner is the most powerful man in the New Mexico Territory: John Chisum, and his partners are Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. All three are unaware that Hollywood will later give them the status of mythological heroes. And they probably do not suspect that in 1881, Pat Garrett, become sheriff, will forget friendship to shoot in the back the criminal that Billy the Kid has become. For the time being, the trio has only one concern: to reign supreme over a territory so vast that it allows all ambitions. But others than them share the same fantasy. In 1876, the Lincoln County War broke out. It’s not a real war, but it’s still a fierce struggle between all those who claim to claim part of this new territory. The “Lincoln County War” lasted two years. It does not sweep John Chisum from New Mexico but redistributes the cards for the conquest of the West.

In 1881, a New Yorker, Charles Eddy, settled on the banks of the Pecos River to raise cattle. Others followed his example and founded the village of Lookout in 1883. The pastures are vast, certainly, but so poor that the slightest weather variation can have disastrous consequences. In 1884, drought set in for two long years and decimated most of the herd of Charles Eddy and other breeders in the valley. The New Yorker understands the lesson: the Pecos Valley will only be colonizable when man has found a way to solve his chronic water deficit. The time seems favorable to launch such a challenge to nature, especially since the capture of Geronimo by the American authorities in 1885 definitively pacified the Apaches. Two years later, Charles Eddy founded a small company intended to promote the irrigation of the lands of the region, the Pecos Valley Land & Ditch Company. In the process, he creates a city, or at least the cradle of a city to come, which he simply baptizes Eddy. A few canals are built, which prove insufficient to fertilize a land that only asks to return to the desert. We have to think bigger. Bigger is the credo of Charles W. Greene, a visionary from Chicago whom the spectacle of aridity stimulates more than it discourages. The irrigation of the lands of the Pecos will be extensive or it will not be. He knows the big fortunes of his hometown. He invites them to share his dream with them. A few hundred thousand dollars are found, which allow the construction in April 1889 of the first artificial lake on the Pecos River, a wooden aqueduct and an embryonic network of canals. A little vegetation emerges from the parched earth. A miracle, but a miracle not big enough to attract settlers and make the business profitable. He’s a billionaire that Charles Eddy and Charles W. Greene need.

This tycoon exists. It is J.J. Hagerman, who owns the largest silver mine in the world in Colorado. Hagerman is invited to the shores of the Pecos River. He returns seduced. In the fall of 1889, he was the main shareholder of the Pecos Irrigation & Improvement Company. With him, the course of history accelerates. On October 12, the company launched the “Eddy Argus”, a local newspaper of the nascent town of Eddy, but above all a propaganda tool intended to serve the promotion of the region throughout America and as far as Europe. In the weeks that followed, a few trees were planted along what was not yet Main Street, it was a small thing but it was already a symbol; a bridge is built over the river and work begins on a luxury hotel, the Hagerman hotel, to accommodate all those whom the Pecos should not fail to attract. Major development work is carried out with the same frenzy. The first railroad tie from Eddy to Pecos, Texas was laid on June 23, 1890. On the irrigation front, there was a rush to develop a complex in which J.J. Hagerman had already invested one million dollars. Irrigation engineers lacking in the United States? Never mind, it is rail specialists that the billionaire mobilizes. It may be a mistake. In August 1890, a first flood submerged the network. There will be fifteen until 1966 and the most dramatic, which occurred in 1893, will ruin the hopes of the colonists and begin the decline of the financial empire of J.J. Hagerman.

But for now, no one anticipates disasters to come. In October 1890, the irrigation system was put into service and the water flowed in the canals that bordered the lands of the first farming families who came to settle in the valley. Three months later, Hagerman opened the First National Bank, the first bank in the town of Eddy, which the train and telegraph now connected to the rest of the world. The rest of the world, it is in particular French-speaking Switzerland that rumors of a new Eldorado have reached in its banks as well as in its countryside. In the months that followed, the Geneva company Lombard, Odier et Compagnie acquired $500,000 worth of shares and bonds in the Pecos Irrigation & Improvement Company. And on November 5, 1891, a first group of about fifty people, mainly peasants and winegrowers from the Vevey region, settled a few miles south of Eddy and founded the village of Vaud there. Other Swiss joined them in the months that followed to form a colony that numbered two hundred people in the summer of 1892. British, Italian and German colonists followed their example and all immediately set to work.

The Company of J.J. Hagerman had promised that everything would be possible in the Pecos. We then plant vines, cereals, alfalfa, vegetables and fruit trees by the thousands. The first harvests are disastrous. Irrigation water, too rich in salt, dries the land more than it irrigates it, its supply is insufficient and its unsanitary conditions lead to the weakening of adults and, sometimes, the death of children. They persist, however, plowing tirelessly, repeatedly sowing land that refuses to give even a part of the green harvests that the settlers dreamed of obtaining. Were they abundant, such as alfalfa or sorghum sometimes, they would not find any outlets. The railroad hastily built by J.J. Hagerman goes to Texas and not to the great population reservoirs of the North.

Two years pass like this. Two years during which the dream and the reality of the Pecos seem to be waging a constant war. On the one hand, settlers who exhaust their strength and their money to fertilize a desert that rejects them. On the other, an Irrigation Company which, through its promises and the Promethean prose of its newspaper, maintains the mirage of ever-deferred prosperity. On August 5, 1893, Nature decided definitively. In favor of reality. After months of drought, a devastating flood washes away the works of the irrigation complex. This is the debacle. Those of the Swiss settlers who had hitherto refused discouragement returned to their homeland or went to try their luck in more fertile regions of the United States. Most of the others follow their example. A small minority cling to their peach trees, which seemed to have finally adapted to the climate and soil of the Pecos. J.J. Hagerman does not admit defeat. In the aftermath of the disaster, he promises to rebuild everything, even if it means having to put all his personal fortune into it. Which he did, going so far as to finance the construction of a new railway line to Roswell, north of the valley. But J.J. Hagerman is no longer the billionaire he once was. The flooding of the Pecos Valley was followed by the demonetization of silver, which reduced the resources it drew from its Colorado mine to very little. In 1900, it was a bankrupt man who sold his railroad line to the Santa Fe Railway and retired to a ranch in Roswell that had belonged to … John Chisum. Other men have meanwhile regained control of the Irrigation Company. It will decline until the purchase, for a sum of 150,000 dollars, that is to say the tenth of the investments which had been granted there, of the irrigation system by the American Federal State in 1906. The opening of a sugar refinery in 1897, finally, makes believe for a moment that the prosperity of the Pecos lies in the industrial culture of the beet. It will only be a final jolt. The factory closed in 1899, before burning down in 1903.

At the beginning of this century, the Pecos Valley returned to its dreams. Charles Eddy left the region never to return and Charles W. Greene went to New York where he died in poverty. Abandoned by its founders, the town of Eddy can now be called Carlsbad and try to attract by this name settlers of a particular species: the tuberculous. At least for them, the climate of the valley may be suitable. In the fields where the settlers from Corseaux or Genoa have toiled away, ranchers and cattle have regained their rights. In June 1901, the first cave of a network that would prove to be much larger is discovered a few miles from the city. It allows the ephemeral exploitation of bat guano, then the opening a few years later of a national park which still attracts many visitors today. But for now, Eddy County has not yet come to the end of its misfortunes. In 1906, the frost destroyed the last fruit trees. The return to service of the irrigation complex by the Federal State in 1907 prompted the return of a few farmers who devoted themselves to growing cotton, and especially alfalfa, the only plant likely to thrive in the region. But the era of the agricultural Pecos is over.

In 1909, an oil deposit was discovered in Carlsbad. Four years later, derricks begin to multiply in the desert. The Pecos entered a new phase in its history that the forced displacement of the last Mescaleros towards their reserve, in 1912, comes to confirm. In 1925, potash was found around the city. And in such quantity that it spared this unfortunate country the consequences of the Great Depression. In 1932, when the American unemployed numbered in the millions, four thousand workers were employed in the region’s five mines and refineries. Vaud, now Loving, takes advantage of this take-off. The hamlet that the settlers from Corseaux had founded is now a small town with five shops and even a cinema. The major strikes of 1949 interrupted this miraculous upturn. Would Eddy County be cursed? However, the Gnome Project managers choose it to test an atomic bomb for civilian use. On December 10, 1961, the experiment took place. It is cut short due to a serious incident. In November 1967, one of the largest potash mining companies closed its doors. This was the beginning of the decline of this activity, which occupied only 1,600 workers in 1988. A few years earlier, in 1980, the managers of the Waste Isolation Pilot Project found the ideal site about ten kilometers from Loving to the construction of the largest radioactive waste disposal center in the It has still not been completed to this day. Three years ago, finally, a new accumulation basin was inaugurated. It should make it possible to regulate the course of the Pecos forever so that the alternation of droughts and floods that have marked the history of the valley for more than a century ceases. J.J. Hagerman had already made this promise in 1891. He also planned to put 200,000 acres of land under irrigation. The last farmers in the region now know that only 25,000 acres are suitable for cultivation. Just as they know that 60 acres of land is needed to maintain a single cow. Eddy dreamed of attracting settlers from all over the world. The city of Carlsbad now has 25,496 inhabitants whose average income is $6,107 per year. There are no more shops or cinemas in Loving which, a century after its creation by a group of citizens from Corseaux, only has 1335 inhabitants.


The rumor of a Pecos assimilated to a new Eldorado touched Switzerland during the summer of 1891. A man worked on the elaboration of this myth by the publication of a brochure entitled “La Contrée du Pecos”. It is the Bernese businessman Henri Gaullieur. The man spent several years of his life in America where he made his fortune in the tobacco trade. At the beginning of the year, a committee of German-speaking philanthropists led by Jean de Wattenwil visited him at his castle in Kiesen to ask him to find land on American territory suitable for the emigration of poor peasants from the country. Henri Gaullieur accepted the mandate and went to Wyoming in the weeks that followed to inspect land that had recently been irrigated. He believed he had found the ideal territory for the installation of a colony of Swiss farmers when he was contacted by a representative of the Pecos Irrigation Company. The promoters of the valley have heard of Henri Gaullieur’s mission, they wish to show him the intense development to which the valley is subject. The Bernese businessman thus goes to Eddy. There he meets J.J. Hagerman, befriends him and develops an immense admiration for the projects of the American billionaire. Henri Gaullieur has found the territory that will welcome the next wave of Swiss candidates for emigration.

We do not know what follow-up Jean de Wattenwill and his friends give to their project. We won’t hear from them again. On the other hand, we do know that during the summer of 1891, J.J. Hagerman and Henri Gaullieur agreed at the Château de Kiesen that the latter would work to promote the Pecos, and that he would be remunerated for any sale of land made in Switzerland. We also know that a meeting organized by Henri Gaullieur with the representatives of the Lombard bank, Odier and Company enabled J.J. Hagerman to regain the Pecos weighted with 500,000 dollars of shares and bonds acquired by the Geneva company. Finally, we know that during the same period, Henri Gaullieur wrote and published his brochure based on the propaganda material that the Pecos Irrigation Company provided him. It is therefore not surprising that his descriptions are dithyrambic, and that they arouse the greatest hopes among his readers.

“A plowing is enough to clear the soil in this region and to sow it. He [the settler] will already harvest in June all the cereals he will sow in March: and by working moderately, he will easily plow and sow from the first spring a quantity of cereals which will reimburse him more than his establishment costs, will allow him to live for a year and will provide him with cash.>>
Henri Gaullieur in “The Country of Pecos”, 1891

More than 100,000 Swiss citizens, mostly of peasant origin, settled in the United States. In the Swiss countryside still marked by the upheavals caused by the industrial revolution, the desire to emigrate remains strong. We dream of a promised land, we dream of these infinite territories that Switzerland cannot promise anyone, we dream of making a fortune, we simply dream of America. It is this imagination that Henri Gaullieur’s brochure challenges. With the added benefit of providing facts and figures. What do we read in this document enriched with photographs of giant onions and heavy bunches of grapes? that in addition to its lands promised to the greatest fertility, the Pecos Irrigation Company will offer the settlers abundant water of good quality, as well as the construction, at its expense, of a house provided with tools and fences. What more? Never before has the migratory adventure offered such guarantees. No need to wait any longer, especially since, Henri Gaullieur insists on this point, the first to arrive will be the best served:

<<…in a few years this country which presents the same conditions as those offered by southern California twelve years ago, will find itself populated and developed to a point which will only allow well-to-do people to live there. acquire a property.>>
Henri Gaullieur in “The Country of Pecos”, 1891

In October 1891, about twenty peasants and farmers from Corseaux, joined by some young people from Geneva and Lausanne, left with their wives and children for New Mexico. None of them are truly poor. All acquired between 40 and 120 acres of land through a brief exchange of correspondence, sometimes an interview at the Château de Kiesen, with Henri Gaullieur. And all of them have an image of America that excludes the very idea that this territory can sometimes have the appearance of a desert. Three weeks later, at the end of a difficult journey most often made in third class, the Swiss emigrants arrive at Eddy. The representatives of the Company welcome them there, preceded by the Genevan Frédéric Dominicé, the representative of the bank Lombard, Odier and Company. Not all the houses could be built in time. The men will have to sleep in tents while the women and children will be temporarily accommodated, at the expense of the Company, at the Hagerman hotel. So we camp, or we host each other, and we immediately get to work, plowing, irrigating and sowing these lands that promise the most wonderful harvests. And in the process, the name of Vaud was baptized the hamlet in which Gustave Cuénod, the former wine merchant of Corseaux, decided to open a small business.

Comes winter. He is tough, very tough. Henri Gaullieur mentioned California in his brochure. It is -17 degrees that the temperature falls in the Pecos during the weeks following the installation of the Swiss settlers. The letters sent to the country, and taken up by the French-speaking press, which was immediately very curious about the future of the exiles, did not however show the slightest disappointment. We still dream, we wait, we want to be optimistic:

“The first times will be hard, it is true, but the work will be amply rewarded.”
Letter from Swiss settler Paul Bonzon to Alexandre Herzen, in Lausanne, November 8, 1891

The return of spring must materialize all hopes. It only brings disappointment. Nothing or almost nothing grew in the fields duly worked by the Swiss settlers. On the surface of the earth, neither corn, nor potatoes, nor fruits, nor flowers, but a crust of salt left by the irrigation water, which seems to burn the earth and prevents any germination. For the settlers, it is time for the first assessment. A violent wind, which they already nicknamed “Gaullieur breeze”, blows constantly, eroding the earth and sometimes carrying away beams and roofs. The land is arid, and overgrown with mesquite. Henri Gaullieur had certified that this species of cactus could be uprooted by the plow, like ordinary gooseberries. Its eradication actually requires considerable clearing work. In addition, the construction of the canals promised by the Pecos Irrigation Company has not been completed. In the rare canals in service, the water level is generally insufficient. As for its quality, the salt crust that covers the lands of Emery or Herminjard says enough about it. But that’s not all. The springs, which Gaullieur’s brochure said were abundant, were rare, buried deep underground and often unhealthy. Many settlers are thus reduced to drinking water from the canals. Contaminated by the numerous corpses of horses and cattle that it carries, it transmits to them the “pecosine fever”, in other words, typhoid. Most Swiss are struck by it in the spring. The strong recover. Not the most vulnerable. In March, pecosine fever kills the wife of Daniel Bengueli, from Corseaux. Then two of his four children. Others will die in the weeks and months that follow.

As bitter as they may be, these findings are not enough to arouse the discouragement of the Swiss. Only one of them, François Grelet from Vevey, left the Pecos in the spring to try his luck in California. The others refuse to imitate him, retaining the hope of a rosy tomorrow, even if it means sinning by omission, or describing the future rather than telling the present, in a correspondence that the French-speaking press continues to publish. Carefree, Henri Gaullieur can multiply conferences on the Far West in French-speaking Switzerland, and be solicited from all sides.

<<…you will never know what life awaited me when I returned. More than 4 or 500 people assailed me, some waiting for my return to leave, others for advice, others to hold ground for September, others to be kind to me. In short, I have been in Switzerland for 6 weeks, and I haven’t had a moment. Everyone in French Switzerland from the most upscale to the most humble talks about the Pecos.>>
Letter from Henri Gaullieur to settler Samuel Emery, March 6, 1892

Thus, during the first half of the year 1892, nearly two hundred Romands emigrated in turn to the Pecos. Among them, representatives of the great Lausanne families, such as Ernest Secrétan, two brothers from La Verrerie (FR) of aristocratic origin and linked to the Gaullieur family: Charles and Rodolphe de Brémond, but also peasant families from Val-de-Ruz , farm hands, servants and the gardener of the castle of Vufflens: Auguste Rayroux. What are their living conditions? To read the “Eddy Argus”, local newspaper and propaganda organ of the Irrigation Company, they are excellent and will be even better tomorrow. So-and-so presented Eddy with a heavy squash weighing several kilos. Another expressed his intention to plant several thousand fruit trees. The truth is very different, as the revele in June a conference entitled “The Truth about the Pecos”. Its author is a farmer from Valeyres-sous-Rances: Paul Lambercy. He had visited the Swiss colony a month earlier in anticipation of a possible installation. Horrified by what he saw, he decided to return to Switzerland. And testify.

“Once there, he asked the settlers:
-How are you?
-It’s not going so well, we were told, the crops are not growing.
– But why did you write so many beautiful things, that everything was going well, that you were very happy?
-At the beginning, everything was fine. We cleared, we plowed, we sowed, we were full of hope. It was only later that things went wrong, when we saw the vegetation so thin and the plants drying out as soon as they emerged from the ground.>>
The truth about Pecos, based on a lecture by Paul Lambercy. Lausanne Gazette, June 17, 1892

A second testimony, published in the form of a brochure by Editions Payot, extends the words of Paul Lambercy. Its author is a forest engineer from Lausanne, Alexandre Herzen, who spent four months in Pecos in order to exploit the 200 acres of land he had acquired with his two brothers. For the first time, the promises of Henri Gaullieur are denounced as fallacious, and condemned all the illusions maintained on the Pecos.

“Our trip is like so many others, a thousand times described. It is in Pecos City, a nasty hole of 300 inhabitants, that we take the train for Eddy, on the line belonging to the Irrigation Company; the region we travel through offers a sad spectacle: as far as the eye can see, an arid plain covered with mesquite bushes; here and there corpses and skeletons of horses or cows, starving or thirsty. Eddy, at that time, consisted of wooden houses, except for the Hôtel Hagermann – a close friend of Gaullieur – and the National Bank, which was also the headquarters of the Company. […] It was impossible for me to find at Eddy a pair of horses, even bad ones, at the price indicated by Mr. Gaullieur; I had to pay two very mediocre horses 900 francs, and everything else extremely expensive and of very poor quality. We were sold farm machinery that had wooden bolts and nuts, carefully concealed under a coat of varnish. […] The cows are certainly not expensive, but the fodder is so expensive that it is a real luxury to have one. In addition to the excessive heat, sometimes going up to 45 degrees in the shade, the Pecos is still afflicted with sandstorms of incredible violence which did not stop blowing throughout the spring and until around mid-August. , sometimes producing real storms of sand; these “Gaullieur breezes” as they are called there, are of such violence that they have, on several occasions, damaged the “houses” of the settlers […] Faced with the failure of the enterprise and the complaints of the settlers to the Company, the latter replied: “if you believed everything you were told, so much the worse for you!” Since then, many settlers have left Pecos: Grelet, Pittet, Fonjallaz, Tzaut, Bourquin, Bornand, Soutter, Perregaux, myself and others.>>
Alexandre Herzen in “Le Pecos or four months stay in Vaud near Eddy, N.M.”, 1892

Then begins a controversy that will not cease to occupy the French-speaking press. On the one hand, routed settlers who, supported by “Le Nouvelliste vaudois”, “Le Genevois” “Le Journal de Vevey” and the press organ of the Vaudois democratic and federalist party “La Revue”, suddenly revealed what ‘they have been silent for months and complain of having been cheated by Henri Gaullieur:

“We congratulate ourselves on having never recommended this company, which proves to be a filibuster entirely worthy of calling the attention of justice to it. >>
“The Review”, July 25, 1892

On the other, the Bernese businessman, who, supported by “La Gazette de Lausanne”, “Le Journal de Genève” and “La Feuille d’Avis de Vevey”, claims his good faith and swears to the disinterested character of his promotional work, by attributing the misfortune of certain Swiss settlers, in his eyes a minority, to their laziness:

“There is another kind of man who are always harmful: the lazy, who do not want to work. […] Needless to say, such people will not succeed in the Pecos. They come as farmers and are amazed to see that to have good harvests you have to work with your hands. […] In an enterprise of this kind, we no longer need these sons of Swiss professors, young people who have failed their college exams, nor old drunkards, inepts and idlers. There are already enough of these I certainly never encouraged them to come here and it is a pity that they did not stay in their beautiful Switzerland, where, perhaps, their ineptitude would not have been noticed .>>
Interview with Henri Gaullieur granted to the “Eddy Argus” and reproduced by Le Genevois, November 25, 1892

In the Pecos, discouragement gradually prevailed over the blind optimism of the first months. One after the other, the settlers began to sell their land in order to return to Switzerland or to try their luck in more fertile regions of the United States. In August 1892, a Neuchâtel farmer, François Bourquin, found in Connecticut what the land of Pecos had not given him. Convinced that he had been the victim of a scam, he contacted the Swiss Immigration Commission in the hope of obtaining legal proceedings against Henri Gaullieur.

“Leaving Coffrane (Neuchâtel) on March 31, we arrived in Vaud near Eddy on April 19. To say that we have been deceived in all respects is superfluous; everyone’s health has been affected both by the climate and by the water for domestic use. During the 4 months that we lived in this region, we worked hard to cultivate our lot of 120 acres; so we cleared the mess, we plowed, sowed about 25 acres, had a well dug 125 feet deep without any water, which cost me more than 1200 francs; closed (etc.). When we realized the negative result of our work resulting from the climatic conditions of the region and the bad irrigation water, the high cost of living, the unfavorable climate in other words than everything that Monsieur Gaullieur published on this subject and wrote to me (I keep his correspondence and that of his lady) is completely inaccurate, we decided to leave the Colony during August before the balance of our assets disappeared! […] Given these undeniable facts, I wonder if the actions of Mr. Gaullieur can go unpunished, if the Law does not cover similar acts which seem to me to be criminal in the first place?>>
Letter from François Bourquin to the Federal Commission for Emigration, October 31, 1892

He is dismissed. Requested on numerous occasions by Henri Gaullieur, the federal authorities had always refused to grant him the right to officially represent the Pecos Irrigation Company in Switzerland. Bourquin, like the Veveysan Samuel Emery who will try the same steps as soon as he arrives in Switzerland, will be at his expense. It remains to integrate, ruined, bankrupt and sometimes ashamed, in this country, which the colonists had left to make their fortune. Some won’t. Barely arrived in Geneva, Alfred Necker re-embarks and reaches the Ivory Coast from which he will never return. Henri Emery, son of Samuel, returned as a teenager from Pecos, disappears a few years later in the middle of Lake Geneva. Suicide according to the official version. Returned to America rumored.

Eighteen Swiss families remained in Pecos when on August 5, 1893, after two years of drought, a flood washed away most of the infrastructure of the irrigation system. The death knell for the colonization enterprise of the Pecos has sounded. In the weeks and months that followed, all the Swiss settlers left New Mexico, except for a handful of them: the Ramuz and Rayroux families, as well as the de Brémond brothers. The latter, better off than most of their compatriots, had not settled around Vaud, but in La Huerta, a sector of the valley which was not affected by the flood. Charles de Brémond did not leave his vast estate until 1894. He settled near Roswell, a town 120 kilometers north of Eddy, while his brother Rodolphe returned to Switzerland. Having acquired much more fertile land than that of the Pecos, Charles de Brémond devoted himself to raising Percherons and Astrakhan sheep. In 1908, the American authorities instructed this former Swiss army officer to form an artillery battalion to oppose the forces of Pancho Villa. Charles de Brémond demonstrated such qualities as an instructor that he was again mobilized during the First World War to command a unit engaged in the terrible battles of Château-Thierry. Gassed, Colonel Charles de Brémond was demobilized before the armistice and returned to Roswell where he died in 1919. The memory of this military hero is celebrated in November of each year in the cemetery of this city. The case of the Ramuz is less glorious. A former shoemaker in Lausanne, Louis Ramuz left the Pecos after a few years, took part in the Klondike gold rush and then went to California from where he never gave another sign of life. Left to their own devices, his wife Barbara and daughter Elise resign themselves to not leaving the region. Elise Ramuz will die in Carlsbad in the sixties, not without having visited her cousins in Lausanne on several occasions. Auguste Rayroux, finally, had not had the means to acquire land. It is as a day laborer in the service of his compatriots that he survives in the Pecos. This handicap enabled him to escape the ruin to which all were condemned in 1893. Resolved to remain in the Pecos at all costs, he acquired a small estate in La Huerta, and worked there until the end of these days. His grandsons, Roy and Jessie Rayroux, still live in the Eddy area and farm there. They form with their family the last descendants in direct line of the Swiss colonists of Pecos.

Vaud, the small hamlet that emigrants had founded in 1891, is today called Loving, named after the legendary cattle herder who was the first to venture into the region. The Italian workers who bought the land from the Swiss in 1893 first named it Florence. Before going bankrupt, like their predecessors. In Switzerland, a district of Grandson, a street in Lausanne (last trace of the former “village du Pecos” in Béthusy) and the expression: “c’est pas le Pecos”, (the Vaudois version of the phrase: “ it’s not Peru”) further attest to the influence of the Pecos utopia on the imagination of the French-speaking part of the last century.


Directed by : Stéphane Goël

Research and script : Antoine Jaccoud, Stéphane Goël

Assistant director : Nadia Fares, Dominique Stalder

Narration : Dominique Meyer, Michel Cassagne, Jean Bruno, Pierre Ruegg, Roland Sassi

Images : Camille Cottagnoud

Set and props : Hervé Boumard

Sound : Gilles Abravanel

Editing : Stéphane Goël, Yves Kropf

Sound mix : Thierry Peterburger, Xavier Fernandez

Music : Jean-Philippe Zwahlen, Michel Dupuis

Intern : Bastien Moeckli

Production : Climage, Stéphane Goël

Coproduction : RTS

Financial support : Office fédéral de la culture (DFI), la Loterie Romande, Fondation Vaudoise Pour le Cinéma, Evangelischer Mediendienst, Fédération des Coopératives Migros, Crédit Foncier Vaudois, Commune de Corseaux

© 1993 CLIMAGE


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