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



__People have been creating plazas in New Mexico for over a thousand years. With its three distinct cultural traditions, the state may well have the most varied set of community spaces in the United States.

__As early as 700 AD, ancestors of Pueblo Indians built compact villages with community spaces, and, by 1000, included clearly defined plazas. Spanish colonists brought their own urban design tradition, and from the founding of Santa Fe in 1610 to La Union in 1882, and in dozens of settlements between, they laid out plazas as the beginning point of new communities. Even in Anglo-American towns that clustered along commercial Main Streets after the arrival of the railroad in 1879, civic boosters avidly developed courthouse squares like those of the South, Midwest and Plains states.

__Each of these three town planning traditions include both a public space form and particular building types that shape the uses of those spaces. Terraced residential blocks and ceremonial kivas mark Pueblo plazas as primarily domestic and religious spaces. A prominently located church and surrounding courtyard houses imparted a similar character to the earliest Spanish and Mexican communities, while business blocks surrounding a courthouse and its square reflected the growing importance of commerce and government in Anglo-American.

__Each cultural tradition, likewise, reinforced community identity with characteristic celebrations. Ritual dances to ensure bountiful crops and hunting at the Pueblos. Religious processions asserting Catholic beliefs, and folk dramas recalling local conquest history in Spanish plazas. Fourth of July and Old Timers Day parades around Anglo courthouse squares celebrating national and local identities.

__As people sought to establish and sustain their communities, these ensembles of open space, special building types, and community celebrations provided a vessel into which they could pour their energies, aspirations and shared dreams.