Las Vegas is an oasis in the desert and has an interesting history. The first settler of the region that was of European descent was a young man named Rafael Rivera in 1829. The area contained artesian wells and lots of greenery, which is why it was named Las Vegas, which means "The Meadows" in Spanish. The early inhabitants of the Las Vegas valley were Paleo-Indians. Later, the Anasazi Indians and the Pauite people lived near and explored the area that is now Las Vegas. In fact, the ruins of the Anasazi community can be found northwest of Las Vegas, referred to as the "Lost City."
Las Vegas was established as a city on May 15, 1905 when a stretch of land spanning 110 acres was auctioned off. It was incorporated on March 16, 1911. In the early 1900s,was a popular railroad town. Las Vegas experienced a downturn due to the Great Depression. However, it made a comeback with the construction of the Hoover Dam in 1931. March of that year is when gambling became legalized in the city, and the first casino that was built along what is now known as the Las Vegas Strip was the El Rancho Vegas, which opened in 1941. Soon after, many of the large casinos and hotels followed. The mafia realized the profit potential and financed and operated some of the casinos. Some are still in existence today under different management.
Las Vegas became the highest-grossing gambling center in the world, although it lost that status in 2006 to Macau in the People's Republic of China. However, it remains a top entertainment tourist attraction of the world. It is famous for gambling, night life, entertainment, and bright lights.