Pueblo Taos (World Heritage)

The small Indian village of Taos Pueblo northeast of Santa Fe is a center of Indian culture. About 1200 descendants of those Indians who evaded compulsory missionary service centuries ago live here. The architecture is characterized by nested cuboid buildings made of air-dried bricks.

Pueblo Taos: Facts

Official title: Pueblo (Indian village) Taos
Cultural monument: since the 17th century a center of Indian culture and resistance to proselytizing and Spanish colonization; Block-shaped buildings made of air-dried adobe bricks, nested in one another and erected on up to five terraced floors, along with underground ceremonial rooms (kivas) and igloo-shaped clay ovens
Continent: North America; See searchforpublicschools
Country: USA, New Mexico
Location: Pueblo Taos, north of Taos, northeast of Santa Fe
Appointment: 1992
Meaning: Testimony of the Pueblo Indians of Arizona and New Mexico

Pueblo Taos: history

around 1350 probably foundation
1540-42 Francisco Vasquez de Coronado in search of the “seven cities of gold” in New Mexico on behalf of the Spanish crown
1598 Beginning of the Spanish colonization and proselytizing
1615 Spanish settlers settle in the Taos Valley
1680 Revolt against the Spanish colonizers
1692 under Diego de Vargas restoration of Spanish rule over New Mexico
1696 Taos’ resistance to Spanish rule is broken
1821 end of Spanish rule in the wake of Mexican independence
1846 During the American-Mexican War, Taos and Santa Fe are occupied by the troops of General Stephen Kearny
1847 Taos rebellion against US occupation
1848 End of the American-Mexican War
1861-65 Taos residents are loyal to the Northern Union during the Civil War

Nested blocks made of clay

Ancient arrowheads, remains of primitive earth dwellings, half-collapsed cliff dwellings, rock carvings with enigmatic symbols, ruins of former ceremonial buildings and roads overgrown with dry steppe grass are traces of prehistoric Indians in the North American Southwest that are thousands of years old. Long before the Spaniards were the first Europeans to invade here in the 16th century, nomadic hunters and gatherers roamed the region. Between 100 BC and 1300 the civilization of the Anasazi Indians developed, whose descendants are probably the residents of the 19 pueblos that still exist in New Mexico today.

Archaeologists found evidence that Pueblo Taos probably existed as early as the 14th century. The residents of Taos made a name for themselves because the so-called pueblo revolt of the Indian population against the white clerical and secular colonial rulers began there. But this bitter resistance was finally broken after years by the overwhelming Spanish power. In the course of the large land grab in the American West in 1906, most of the Indian territory, along with the sacred Blue Lake, was expropriated and turned into a federal forest area. After the Second World War, the Indians successfully sued the US federal government, so that in 1972 the ancestral land had to be returned to its rightful owners.

The modern age has left its mark on many of the pueblos in New Mexico; Residential containers, television antennas, casinos and bingo halls are unmistakable signs of this. It is completely different with Pueblo Taos. Even if the approximately 150 permanent residents there are considered to be extremely conservative and tradition-conscious, they allow tourists access to the village in order to promote a better understanding between Indians and non-Indians. Anyone who has paid the entrance fee and the mandatory fee for the camera at the ticket booth will find themselves on an extensive plaza in front of the sparkling clean Mission Church of San Geronimo. It is a visible sign that the Indians have remained Christians since their conversion in the 17th century, although they attach great importance to their own religious ceremonies.

On both the northern and southern parts of the village square there is a large building complex made up of dozen of nested rooms with flat roofs and floors, many of which can only be reached via skylights and ladders. These “apartment complexes” made of clay, beams and straw are reminiscent of oversized, square building blocks carefully placed on top of each other. Here and there blue, green or red wooden doors and window crosses bring colorful changes to the uniform clay brown. The interior of the residential complex is taboo for visitors. Only the “Morning Glory” souvenir shop, to which a painted cattle skull draws attention, allows a look inside.

In front of the complex on the north side of the plaza are frames that were built from roughly cut tree trunks and weathered slats. These Ramadas are used to hang up corn and chili peppers to dry. In the cold season, the residents stack hay on it for goats and cattle. The hornos, dome-shaped clay ovens, are also unmistakable. With a little luck you can watch the women bake their fragrant bread in the traditional way.

The construction of Pueblo Taos is out of the ordinary even in multicultural New Mexico. There is a good reason for this. Due to the location of the Pueblo far away from the Rio Grande Valley, it has always served as a gateway to the eastern Great Plains. In this vast grassland lived the Kiowas and Comanches, who were in lively trade with Taos and decisively influenced the local culture. Therefore, the construction is more related to the grassland culture than to the Rio Grande pueblos. The same applies to the language, which has similarities with the Kiowa language of an Indian group that lives in Oklahoma.

Pueblo Taos (World Heritage)

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