Urban to Rural Transect, Taos, Geoff Dyer. About 2005. Courtesy of Town of Taos and Placemakers.

 

Taos Pueblo (established about 1350)

__The northernmost of the nineteen New Mexico Pueblos, Taos has been continuously occupied for over six centuries, making it one of the oldest communities in the U.S. Ancestors of this Tiwa-speaking Pueblo may have come from Chaco Canyon in northwestern New Mexico to this area in the 1100s.

__Following a series of other villages, this site was established about 1350. When Spanish explorer Hernando de Alvarado first saw Taos in 1540, he described a village in two parts divided by the Taos River: “The houses are very close together and have five or six stories." Franciscan missionaries and Pueblo builders erected the mission of San Geronimo just northwest of the Pueblo beginning in 1598. Amid a wave of Comanche and Apache raids (and Spanish and Pueblo counter-raids) in the mid-1700s, villagers constructed a trapezoid-shaped defensive wall, where nearby Spanish Colonists also sought safety.

__The original mission was destroyed in 1847 during an abortive revolt against the American occupation. The ruins stand to this day surrounding the cemetery. The new, smaller church, erected about 1850, faces east onto the village plaza. Since the advent of the Taos Art Colony in the 1910s, the village has had a symbiotic relationship with tourism, as village leaders have chosen to maintain the historic core around the plaza as a religious center without modern utilities, thereby preserving its aura of authenticity.

__The terraced five-story north and south buildings define a broad plaza as they stretch wide to echo the forms of the mountains and foothills to the east. Water originating from Blue Lake high above in the mountains flows directly through the plaza, bringing the sacred life force into the heart of the community.

Further Reading

(in addition to The Plazas of New Mexico)

  • Bodine, John J., “Taos Pueblo,” in Alfonso Ortiz and William Sturtevant eds., Handbook of the North American Indians, Southwest, Vol. 9., (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, 1979).

  • Bodine, John J., Taos Pueblo: A Walk Through Time, (Tucson: Rio Nuevo Publishers, 1996.)

  • Jenkins, Myra Ellen, “Taos Pueblo and its Neighbors 1540-1847,” New Mexico Historical Review, 1966.

  • Nabokov, Peter and Robert Easton, Native American Architecture, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989).

  • Rodríguez, Sylvia, The Matachines Dance: Ritual Symbolism and Interethnic Relations in the Upper Río Grande Valley, (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1996).

  • Scully, Vincent, Pueblo: Mountain, Village, Dance. (New York: Viking Press, 1972).

External Links