The Taos Pueblo

If you love the stark beauty of Southwestern pueblo-style architecture, a visit to the Taos Pueblo should be high on your list of destinations. 

LOCATION

The Taos Pueblo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is located in New Mexico’s Sangre di Cristo Mountains, about 70 miles north of Santa Fe.  The main portion of the Pueblo was built between 1000 and 1450 A.D.  While there is still no running water or electricity, 150 tribal members remain in residence, making it the oldest continuously inhabited community in the U.S.A.

ARCHITECTURE

The Pueblo’s adobe is composed of a mixture of clay, sand, ash, straw and water that is poured into brick forms and sun-dried.   Set on a foundation of thick stones, the load-bearing walls are from two to six feet thick in order to support the higher floors and rooftops.  Rooms on the higher floors are stepped back in order to form terraces.  The rooftops are constructed by large timbers, vigas, crossed with smaller pieces of wood, latillas, which are set side-by-side.

The genius of adobe construction is not simply aesthetic.  The adobe’s natural heating and cooling properties make for comfortable living.  Adobe walls absorb the sun’s heat during the day.  As evening temperatures drop, the walls then radiate the stored heat into the room, warming the occupants.  By morning, the adobe’s warmth is spent and the rooms are cool for daytime comfort.  During winter, additional heat is provided by interior fireplaces.  

The Taos Pueblo is maintained till this day.  And if you’re impressed by the environmentally-friendly building methods, you’ll be even more impressed to know that the sections needing rebuilding are the first place workers look for materials to recycle.  New vigas are not harvested when existing ones will serve.

HISTORY

When the Spanish explorer Francisco Vá De Coronado arrived in 1540, the Taos Pueblo is believed to have looked very much as it does today.  The area was already a thriving center for trade, with a large market frequented by Comanche, Apache and Navajo.  Archaeological evidence finds that trade routes had already been well established, bringing products from as far south as the Yucatan. (Chocolate and the Southwest)

Though the Toas tribe had their own spiritual practice, the Spaniards obliged them to adopt Catholicism, forcing the native spirituality underground.  The Pueblo’s first Catholic chapel was dedicated in 1619 to St. Jerome (Geronimo.)  That church was destroyed during the Spanish Revolt of 1680, and later rebuilt on the same site.  The present chapel was built in 1850 to replace one destroyed by the U.S. Army in 1847 during the war with Mexico. 

 

Original Saint Jerome Church, Taos Pueblo

Original Saint Jerome Church, Taos Pueblo

 

The Taos Puebloans suffered greatly over the centuries, yet managed to remain intact through the Spanish, Mexican, and finally the United States’ occupation of their lands. 

In 1970, after years of lobbying by Pueblo leaders, the U.S. Government finally returned 48,000 acres of land, including the sacred Blue Lake so important to the Puebloans’ spiritual practice, to the Taos Pueblo.  

Today, the religion of the Taos people is a mixture of Roman Catholicism and their native spirituality which is kept secret from outsiders. 

VISITING THE TAOS PUEBLO

The Taos Pueblo typically welcomes visitors daily, except for times when ceremonies require privacy.  For a list of events that are open to the general public, and for more information, the Taos Pueblo website should be consulted. 

Address

Taos Pueblo

120 Veterans Highway

Taos, New Mexico 87571