Wednesday, January 4, 2012

December Trip West - Day 22 - Taos Pueblo

Ever since I'd decided to head to Santa Fe and Taos I'd been looking forward to visiting Taos Pueblo. Having gotten a glimpse of Nambe Pueblo yesterday made the anticipation of Taos Pueblo even greater. Since today is also the start of the trip home I had a limited amount of time there.

So I awoke early in time to have the free french toast breakfast and arrived just as they were opening the Pueblo at 8am. Being the first to arrive I found the Pueblo vacant of other tourists and natives. There were dogs though, about a half dozen roaming around. The first structure you see after entering is the San Geronimo Chapel. The chapel was completed in 1850 and is one of the youngest structures in the Pueblo. It was built to replace the original church which was destroyed in the War with Mexico by the U.S. Army in 1847. That church, the ruins still evident on the west side of the village, was first built in 1619. It was then destroyed in the Spanish Revolt of 1680 but soon rebuilt on the same site.

Past the church is a large open common area. I'm sure this area is used for the many religious ceremonies conducted in the Pueblo. On the left side of the common area is the large 4 story structure so identified with Taos Pueblo, it was an instant magnet for me. The trip to Taos Pueblo took on two meanings for me. Of course I was there to photograph it but there was the historical aspect that permeated by entire visit.

I was just so awe struck by the history of the Pueblo. The Spanish conquered, enslaved and forced the natives into Christianity in the early 1600s, to ‘civilize’ them. In 1680 the natives organized a revolt and forced out the Spanish in the Spanish Revolt of 1680. 14 years later the Spanish raided Taos Pueblo in a successful military conquest that completed the recolonization of the area. It wasn’t until 1970 that President Nixon returned the Pueblo’s 48,000 acres of mountain land to the Northern Tiwa tribe.

Another aspect of the Pueblo’s history I find interesting is the preservation of the buildings. Chaco Canyon in northwest New Mexico is a wonderful example of an ancient Pueblonian community. Long ago vacated by its inhabitants, the site has deteriorated into ruins. Chaco Canyon dates back to the 850-1250AD timeframe overlapping with the Taos Pueblo construction years of 1000-1450AD. While the wall construction methods are different, Chaco building walls are constructed with stone with mud and Taos Pueblo walls are adobe, the appearance of the structures are quite similar. It is easy to visualize the Chaco Canyon community looking similar to Taos Pueblo if it had been maintained thru the years.

After spending a lot of time photographing and feeling the history of the large 4 story structure it was time to slowly venture around other areas of the Pueblo where visitors are allowed. Smoke was rising from homes in the early morning chill. It’s said that about 150 people still live in the Pueblo full time. I did see a few people entering and leaving their homes but not many. It was very quiet.

As the morning wore on more visitors arrived and some of the homes started opening as arts and crafts store fronts. I entered a silversmiths place. Inside the adobe walls were covered with a white plaster. It was very clean and comfortable. A small fireplace was burning cedar and provided the heat for the rooms. I also entered another place that sold fresh baked bread. It was very similar in appearance to the previous place. As I was eating some fry bread, with powdered sugar, I learned that with the exception of propane that has been added to some of the homes of the Pueblo for lighting and I assume heat the homes are as they have been for hundreds of years. It’s pretty amazing that in these modern times people will continue their traditional ways. The homes within the Pueblo are ‘owned’ by the families that reside in them and are handed down to younger generations.

I ended up spending about 4 hours in Taos Pueblo. It is a place of interesting history of a people I respect. It is also a place that I wish to visit again.

It was noon when I left the Pueblo and started my drive home. My destination for tonight is North Platte, Nebraska some 600+ miles from Taos. I put North Platte into my iPhone Navigation app and off we went. To my surprise, as I was heading east on NM160 there is the sign to Great Sand Dunes national Park. I had originally planned to stop at the park but my disappointment with the other three sand dunes I stopped at made me bypass this park. Now I was within 16 miles of it so I decided to turn around and check it out.

I’m glad I did. There are some really cool perspectives from a distance of the dunes against the mountains in the background. I was there a few hours before sunset so there were some nice shadows on the dunes. I did drive all the way to the parking area but didn’t have time to stop. The side trip added about an hour to my drive and it was an hour well spent.

Tomorrow is a travel day ending when I get home. This is going to be my last blog article of this trip. It was fun sharing my adventure with you. I hope you enjoyed the journey thru my eyes and experiences.


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