Taos is the best preserved northern pueblo, a traditional type of architectural ensemble from the pre-Hispanic period of the Americas, and has been in continuous use for human settlement until now. It gives testimony to the culture of Pueblo Indians, that developed after the disappearance of the Anasazi tribes in the region.
The Pueblo settlements date from around 1400, and have survived retaining their original layout.
The Pueblo de Taos is closely related to three other pre-Hispanic sites in the wider region: Mesa Verde
, Chaco Culture
(just across the border in Mexico). However, the others are from the earlier classic period and are now only left as archeological sites.
Visit September 2006
When you arrive at Taos Pueblo (just north of modern Taos), you are confronted with a gate and a big parking lot at the entrance of the town. As it is both a historical site and there are still about 150 people living here, it's kind of a working museum village. You have to pay an entrance fee for yourself and your camera to get in (10 + 5 dollar). Despite the worries stated in Paul Tanner's review below (his visit dating from 1963), it has not become too commercialized however in my opinion. People keep their distance, and there are large parts of the town and the surrounding grounds that are only open to locals.
From pictures I had seen I imagined that the Pueblo would be on a hill, but it turns out to be a flat square with two large building structures on either side (the North House and the South House). These are all individual living quarters that share walls. Entrance used to be via a ladder from the roof.
The pretty San Geronimo church also is on the central square. Some locals were just adding a fresh layer of white and beige paint to its thick adobe walls. Catholicism has clearly been incorporated in contemporary Pueblo culture.
I roam around between the houses for a while. You can't go very far: many places are restricted areas. It reminds me of Mali: the simple adobe buildings, the harsh sunlight. Or I Sassi di Matera. There's no electricity or running water here. The water for daily use comes from the small stream that crosses the central square. Drying racks (for meat and corn) and ovens (for bread) can be seen outside. It's amazing (and brave) that this way of living can still survive in the US in the 21st century.
More photos can be found in the Picture Gallery
|Ian Cade (England):|
The main thing that stuck with me after my visit was how ‘authentic’ the Pueblo was. With the exception of the odd bit of plastic guttering and a portable-toilet there were no discernible traces of modern materials or techniques. Walking on the dusty ground between a few of the crumbling buildings near the cemetery I could easily have thought myself back in a remote village in West Africa. This is actually pretty impressive; there must be lots of pressures to modernise both internal and external, but it is a real testament to the inhabitants that the site isn't just a museum, unlike other historic small settlements on the list.
We arrived shortly before a tour was about to start so decided to join in, and I'm glad we did. It was conducted by an informative local who was also studying at a nearby university. It helped to give a resident’s perspective on history (and even the concept of history), religion, the functions of buildings, annual celebrations as well as life with-in the pueblo, though many residents also have homes elsewhere in the reservation. I was interested that there seemed to be a begrudging acceptance of being in the USA rather than whole hearted support for it.
We had a quick walk around after the tour, bought a few (surprisingly expensive) goods baked in the ovens and took some photos then headed on out.
The pueblo is just outside the city of Taos, which I must admit was a massive disappointment. I didn’t expect wonders but the ersatz ‘pueblo’ architecture which made up the centre just seemed to hold shops selling sub-par hippy/Native American art. It didn’t help that we got stung on parking fees, found DH Lawrence’s ranch to be closed (after a 40 mile round trip) and then had some bad coffee on our return. However this did all make our time in Santa Fe much more enjoyable, it actually turned out to be one of the more interesting cities I have visited in the USA.
I liked Taos Pueblo; it was a really interesting experience and brought to life an aspect of US history that is often overlooked. Architecturally it is very interesting and has influenced many of the buildings in the South West USA. Well worth a trip, especially if you manage to visit Santa Fe as well.
[Site 6: Experience 5]
| Date posted: November 2012|
|Emilia Bautista King (United States):|
Taos Pueblo is a fascinating place. We drove 1 1/2 hours from Santa Fe to the pueblo, only to find that it was closed for a funeral. Visitors must be prepared for the pueblo to be closed at any time (for weddings, funeral, or other ceremonies). Funerals can take up to four days and luckily for us, we tried to visit on the fourth day. We went back the next day while there were heavy winds and sand was blowing in our faces. It didn't matter; I was determined to see the pueblo.
I highly recommend going on a tour provided by one of the pueblo residents, as you get a brief history of the pueblo. Also, if you want to go inside a home, the only way is to visit one of the many shops. There are many micaceous pots (the style of pottery done by the Taos people), drum, horno-baked bread, and other souvenirs for sale. Upon leaving the pueblo, it is worth it to visit the art center run by Marie Reyna and Tony Reyna Indian Shop.
| Date posted: August 2009|
|Anita Briggs (US):|
Christmas Eve and Christmas Day at Taos Pueblo are among the most transforming experiences of my long life. My husband and I, with my daughter, son-in-law, and three grandchildren, were overcome by the beauty of the church service, the wild glory of the bonfires, and the mystery of the dances. We have also attended the San Geronimo pole climb twice. Another treasured memory: sacred clowns on the roofs of the pueblo, the unparalleled courage of the young men at the pole climb, and, as always, the kind welcome of the Taos Puebloans.
| Date posted: October 2008|
|Steve Karlovic (USA):|
We visited on Christmas Eve 2006 and had a wonderful experience. The Pueblo generously did not charge its usual admission fees that day, although prohibited the use of cameras.
We arrived around 1530 and were provided an unofficial tour by a resident working for tips. He provided a good deal of historical insight, although discussions about the native faith of the Taos Pueblo people were declared off-limits. He did provide some insights into the flavors of their own practice of Catholicism that stem from the original religion. The tour was limited to the outdoor areas. He directed us to a number of the "shops" that were open selling Pueblo-produced breads, crafts, and souvenirs. The most impressive offered a wide range of contemporary art and pottery from Taos Pueblo and a number of other Pueblos. Most shops offered goods of a high level of craftsmanship rather than souvenirs.
The church was open to visitors for the evening service, although could in no way accomodate even a fraction of the people who had gathered by 1700. As a note, there were eventually more than one thousand people there in my estimation (perhaps 2000), so do arrive early in the day before the nearby parking is full.
After the evening service, there was a procession featuring the Virgin Mary, native dancers, riflemen, and many residents in Pueblo dress. To light this procession, there were literally one hundred bonfires of locally gathered "greasewood" (an intensely combustible but highly smoky wood). Most of these bonfires were 1-2 m tall, but the tallest two were at least 8-10m, which were quite impressive.
The Pueblo residents were very gracious hosts and remarkably welcoming for this event.
This was a good experience, and offered some genuine insight into Pueblo traditions. Dress warmly, as you will be mostly outdoors for hours.
|James Kovacs (USA):|
Pueblo de Taos is just terrific. I really enjoyed
seeing and participating in authentic native American
culture that dates from approximately 600 years ago.
It is very rare to see a culture this old in the USA.
The architecture and the culture of the pueblo will
| Date posted: February 2006|
In genealogy research for my children's paternal heritage, the Taos Pueblo was welcoming and happy to meet us. In our Class "A" motorhome, we stayed at a new-found elder family member's adobe outside of the area of the adobe apartments. We were there for a couple weeks learning their heritage and having a couple of BBQ's for meeting family. We enjoyed all this immensley. Their hospitality was impeccable.
| Date posted: August 2005|
|Paul Tanner (UK):|
From houses to shopping malls to hotels – indeed, wherever you go in the SW USA you will see examples, from the good to the clichéd, of “Pueblo Revival Architecture”. Its current manifestation is even called “Southwest Architecture”. At Taos Pueblo you can see the “original” article still lived in by “Native Americans”.
How worthwhile you find the experience will depend on
a. How interested you are in adobe architecture. The basic structures date back possibly 1000 years and are regularly “resurfaced”. Although they are stated to be “multi story” and there are parts of the structures which reach 4 floors you are not actually allowed to climb up as these are private or ritual houses and many of the buildings are single story. The whole structure is a series of interlinked square structures – this is no Shibam or Djenne with mud towers and wonderful shapes
b. How much you “want to get a feel for” Native American culture and how you react to the circumstances under which such a visit takes place. One must have some sympathy for the inhabitants. What do you do if you live in a village of 150 people where hordes of tourists want to come and gawp at you and your houses? Well you charge them quite a lot of money to come in (at limited times), you make them pay to take photos (and try to stop them taking photos of you because otherwise it gets very wearing), you provide lots of “shopping opportunities” and you restrict what they can do and where they can go (because if you don’t you will find people coming into your house as if they owned the place!).
In fact I visited Taos as long ago as 1963 when was probably a great deal less touristy than I suspect it is now. I can’t say that, at a distance of 42 years, I remember the visit as being particularly illuminating regarding “Native American culture” (though in those far off politically incorrect days they were still called “Red Indians”!). The whole “visiting experience” might have been upgraded in the intervening years but I was just left alone to get on with walking around (in unrestricted areas) and the locals kept well away. I have always found visiting US Indian reservation towns a bit like visiting townships in apartheid S Africa. You suddenly seem to have crossed an invisible economic frontier into another country and in 1963 the relative poverty showed – the pueblo had no souvenir shops in those days as far as I could see but plenty of beat up old pick up trucks. Hopefully, “progress” since those days with regard to native rights, the growth in tourism and the building (just outside the Pueblo) of the obligatory Reservation Casino has brought increased wealth to the Pueblo.
The Taos area has long attracted artists (D H Lawrence lived in nearby arty Taos city in 1925 and indeed his ashes were taken there by his wife), new-agers and their ilk. Taos Pueblo supports this culture and the perceived wisdom that Native Americans live in harmony with the Earth and achieve spiritual fulfilment. You may get a buzz from being close to all this. Personally if I had to choose between visiting “Native American” structures at inhabited Taos Pueblo or ruined Chaco Canyon I am afraid I would choose the latter!
| Date posted: June 2005|
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