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taos plaza c1940 pc.jpg (62625 bytes)
Taos Plaza View c1940

 

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Taos, NM

Taos, a city located in Taos County, New Mexico, was incorporated as a general law municipality on May 7, 1934.  In the state of New Mexico, a municipality can be a village, town, or city.  Taos, though it is a city, calls itself the “Town of Taos” and is the seat of Taos County.  .

Taos means “red willow” in the Tewa language.  It is a community consisting of three cultures living and working together in relative harmony; Native Americans, Hispanics, and Anglos.  It is still home to one of the longest-established Native American populations in the United States.  It was also the first Spanish colonial outpost, and in recent times has become a colony of artists and new age hippies.  The total population of residents is about six thousand people, who reside in one of the three areas of Taos; the Town of Taos, located around the plaza area; Ranchos de Taos, which is three miles south; and the Taos Pueblo, two miles to the north.  There is also “Taos Ski Valley” a small community built around a world class ski resort known for its fabulous powder and challenging runs, located about twelve miles north of the plaza.

Many who live in Taos have reported to have heard the “Taos Hum”.  It is an ultra low frequency, which is allegedly caused by a secret, government research facility, the existence of which has never been proven to be true or false.  In 1993, the residents who were plagued by this sound joined together and took it to Congress.  They wanted to know what they were hearing.  Congress requested a team of scientists from several institutions, including the University of New Mexico, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Phillips Air Force Laboratory, and Sandia National Laboratory, to investigate the phenomenon. 

The results of the study found that the people who hear the hum do not have low frequency tinnitus.  They are actually hearing some kind of low frequency sound, but it is not known what.  It is hypothesized that the hearers of the hum have a special sensitivity to sounds in the 20 to 100Hz range, and thus can hear low frequency sounds.  Whatever the hum is, it has become part of the charm of Taos.   

HISTORY

The history of Taos is long and vibrant.  The Tiwa Indians of the Taos Pueblo had inhabited their villages for centuries when, in 1540, Conquistador Hernando de Alvarado followed the Rio Grande north to the Taos Valley.  The way the sun shone off the straw embedded in the adobe walls of the Taos Pueblo made him think he had found the legendary Cities of Gold.  The Indians were peaceful and presented him with gifts.  The Spanish and Pueblo Indians formed a tolerable relationship, which eventually eroded away.

By 1680, the Indians were tired of the Spanish treatment of them and their religious beliefs, so they revolted and drove the Spanish out of Taos.  But in 1696 Don Diego de Vargas of Spain came to again conquer the Indians and convert them religiously, as well as find all the silver mines in New Mexico.  The Indians were conquered and Don Diego established Santa Fe as the Capital.

In 1843 Kit Carson, a famous mountain man and great American frontiersmen bought a large adobe house in Taos as a wedding present for his bride, Taosena Josefa Jaramillo.  They lived there until they died in 1868.  Today, the Kit Carson Museum in Taos still contains a part of the original home. 

During the war with Mexico in 1847, some of the Taos citizens revolted and killed Charles Bent, the Territorial Governor, while he was in his home trying to escape by squeezing out a hole he had made through one of his adobe walls. 

In 1898, two New York artists, Bert Phillips and Ernest Blumenschein, were traveling through Taos, heading for Mexico, when they broke a wagon wheel. They stopped in Taos to have it fixed and were so taken by the place, they never left.  These men formed the hub of the Taos Society of Artists, which was established in 1915. 

Soon after, in 1917, socialite and art enthusiast Mabel Dodge moved to Taos and married a Pueblo Indian, changing her name to Mable Dodge Luhan.  Eventually other celebrity artists and writers followed, such as D. H. Lawrence, Georgia O’Keeffe, Thornton Wilder, Aldous Huxley, and Ansel Adams. 

Ernie and Rhonda Blake opened Taos Ski Valley in 1955.  They lived in a camper at the base of the mountain and built what is today a world-class ski resort. Many of the original staff of Taos Ski Valley still work there, as well as four generations of Blakes.  Taos Ski Valley is one of the few family owned and operated ski resorts in North America. 

The Rio Grande Gorge suspension bridge, the second largest in the U. S., was built in 1965.  It spanned the Rio Grande Gorge, but because there was no funding to continue the road on the other side, the bridge was called the “bridge to nowhere.”

Taos became a hippy Mecca during the 60’s and 70’s, and many of them stayed and added to the diverse cultural of Taos.  

 

TAOS TODAY

Taos is a great town to visit.  There are museums, galleries, restaurants, book stores, and gift shops equal to Santa Fe in quality, but with more of a laid back atmosphere.  If you are in a hurry, don’t stop in Taos.  But if you want great skiing in the winter, and superb fishing, hiking, white water rafting, and mountain biking in the summer, don’t miss this town.  The writers and artists love Taos for a reason.  The mesas, plateaus, and snow capped mountain peaks are enchanting, while the ancient pueblos, historic adobes and haciendas, and the meandering Rio Grande gorge cutting through the land, add magic and cause one to feel as if they have stepped back in time at least one hundred years. 

Taos today is a unique mixture of artists and writers; some famous and some struggling; Hispanics and Native Americans who can trace their heritage back for centuries, new age enthusiasts ready to read your cards or sell you an energized quartz crystal, and athletic types such as skiers and white water rafters, many who came to visit and never left.   

 

 

 

 

 

 

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