Taos Pueblo

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April 14th 2013
Published: October 1st 2017
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Geo: 35.6915, -105.937

Today, we took the high road to Taos, visited the Taos Pueblo, and had a fine drive home along the Rio Grande.

We left Santa Fe for Taos around 10 or 10:30, as I needed a little time to recover from a migraine. The drive along the High Road to Taos was lovely. The road begins by winding through the basin of an old lake bed dotted with eroded pink mesas. Eventually, the road climbs out of the basin into a pine forest. It was incredibly windy, and I kept talking to the trees, reminding them to stay standing up ... or at least to fall away from the road. We could see snow-covered mountains, which were particularly dramatic with the dark clouds gathering on the horizon. The road passes through several small towns, most of which seemed entirely populated by artists.

Arriving Taos about lunch time, we ate at El Taosena. It seems very popular with the locals ... it was crowded with people who clearly knew each other. The restaurant lacks atmosphere but food was tasty. And it was selling a t-shirt from local Project Runway participant, Patricia Michaels.

Despite the heavy wind and grey overcast, we went to Taos Pueblo. After paying the entrance fee ($10 each), we walked to the church, where a tour was to begin in a few minutes. It was very cold in the courtyard, so we went into the warm church. It's small, built in 1850 out of adobe. The main saint in the altar piece is the Virgin, who has a parallel of the earth mother in local tradition. Jesus has a subordinate position, off to the side. The walls are painted with corn and other food stuffs, which is there to help the people remember their long traditions. All the statues of saints (except Jesus) were dressed in green, representing spring. The clothes are apparently changed every season (pink, gold, white). The church, like the rest of the pueblo, is lit by gas lamps. We lit a candle for a friend, who recently lost her father and a nephew within a few days.

At 1:40pm, we went back to the courtyard, where a young man arrived to give us a tour. Since we were the only ones waiting, we received a private tour ... we were grateful that he was willing to go ahead, even though there were just two of us. (There is no set fee for tours but are funded through gratuities.)

The tour lasted about 20 minutes and was quite informative. It began in the church, and we learned a bit more about the synergy between Catholic practices and local traditional beliefs. From the church, we visited the site of the original St. Geronimo's church, which was destroyed during the Pueblo revolt of 1680, then rebuilt, then destroyed again during the Mexican-US war by US troops. The names on the crosses in the cemetery are mostly Spanish, but our guide said that they use their traditional names within the pueblo but are given Spanish (or other European) names for legal purposes, which apparently includes burial. (Tiwa is not written or recorded.)

Our guide pointed out the features of the homes: drying racks, outdoor adobe ovens used for baking bread, and thick adobe walls. He said that traditional building has no windows or doors and are entered through openings in the roof. Ladders are used to climb the walls. The main purpose was protection from hostile neighbors. We were shown the North House and South House, which are five and four stories tall, respectively. Between the two sides of the town runs the Red Willow River, which is the source of drinking water for the pueblo and irrigation for surrounding fields.

At the completion of the tour, we walked across the bridge to the south side of town. Many ground floor rooms are shops, and we entered one randomly. It turned out to be a large shop, with four rooms in the back. In fact, we discovered later that this gallery, Wahleah's, dates back to the 1930s. They had some amazing pottery, and we bought a tile painted by a local artist and some small bowls as gifts.

Finished with our visit, we went to the central plaza in the town of Taos and had a coffee. I bought a book, "The Pot Thief Who Studied Einstein" at a bookstore called Moby Dickens (which had a charming cat who seemed to enjoy the attention). Then we drove home via the main route, which begins by following the Rio Grande. Eventually, it is a not very interesting road, but the weather cleared slightly, and we could see the mountains clearly.

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