Monday, December 1, 2008

Taos Pueblo, New Mexico

Taos, New Mexico is so rich in its culture and history. Dave and I visited Taos Pueblo before we saw Kit Carson's home (previous post). We drove north from Albuquerque up to the Taos area, and on the way we could see some of the mountains had snow on them. This was the view we saw from State Hwy 68, before turning onto State Hwy 64. This is the southern part of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range. This range reaches up into Colorado and is the same range where the Great Sand Dunes are located at the foot of the west side of Kit Carson Mountain.
Weather for our entire trip was beautiful; days were sunny and warm (around 60-65F), and early mornings and evenings were quite chilly, getting down into the 30s. In the past we have visited the Taos Pueblo, but it has been several years, and times have changed. Entrance into this beautiful, cultural and historic site is quite different now. We parked outside of the walls that encase the pueblo, described as a "high mountain desert oasis" by the native people here.
We paid our entrance fee plus $5.00 camera fee. As we entered into the walls we first saw their cemetery, which was the original site where their church once stood from the 1600s through the mid-1800s. Notice the bell tower in the middle of the picture. This was the only part of the original church left standing after its destruction by U.S. troops. Historically, the native people were forced into Catholicism and slavery by the Spanish/Mexican people who then governed the southwest. Charles Bent was appointed first governor of New Mexico in 1834 when it finally became an American territory during the Mexican War. Bent was then killed in 1847 by some local townsfolk and some Native Americans who at the time revolted and wanted to overthrow the US Government. This cemetery has been in existence since 1847 when many lives were lost in the church's destruction.
There are two main structures in this pueblo, one is called the North House and the other South House. These people speak the Tiwa language who call these structures Hlaauma (north) and Hlaukkwima (south). The photo below is part of the North House. Note some of the doors and windows are painted turquoise to keep out the evil spirits. If you click on the photo to see a larger image you will also notice brown circles near the top of the roofs. These are wood beams called vigas which support the roof which is generally flat. Would you believe this "building" is actually many structures of individual homes built side by side having common walls to connect each home, but no connecting doorways? This reminds me of "row homes" back on the east coast where there are "common walls" attaching each separate home. These homes are supposedly more than 1,000 years old. Kind of hard to believe that any structures made out of earthen material can last that long. Also, take note of the snow dusted mountain in the background. I think this is Pueblo Peak, an apropo name.
This is also part of the North House, obviously closer to the foot of the mountain. Notice the wooden structures, called "drying racks" in front of the homes, and a beehive looking structure, called a horno, under the drying racks. There is a larger view of a horno in a photo below; it's made of adobe (straw and mud, etc.) and used as an oven. The drying racks are multipurpose structures used to dry their wild game meats so they can make jerky out of them and for drying animal hides used for clothing. The racks are also used for drying their fruits and vegetables - pumpkin, corn, squash, beans, wild berries.
This photo shows their source of water and what they call "The River." Its actual name is Red Willow Creek, named after the willows that grow along the banks. This is the pueblo's sole source of water which flows from Blue Lake, known as a sacred site to these people. They cherish this life-giving source. Maybe there's something to be said as to how we Americans should consider our water sources, too.
I took this shot just to show that there were places within this pueblo where the snow was still visible. Taos Pueblo stands at 7,000 feet elevation.
This structure sits by itself; it is not attached to the rest of the North House. Notice the drying racks. This particular residence is also one of several that are used for selling their crafts, etc. That's my husband, Dave, looking at some of the items on the table that were for sale. This place is called Redhill Flower & Gift Shop. The artist makes and sells pottery and jewelry. Did you also notice the ladder on the second floor? Hundreds of years ago these adobe dwellings did not have doorways. The only entryway was through an opening in the roof accesible only by ladder which was their only source of light - better known today as skylights. ;o) These openings were the natives' way of protecting themselves from intruders/enemies. If the natives felt threatened they could easily pull the ladder inside.
Adobe structures are made of earth, straw and water mixed and poured into forms. These forms become sundried bricks which are then stacked and bonded together with more adobe mixture. Walls are quite thick which keeps these homes warm in the winter and cool in the summer. This historic site does not have electricity or running water, but some of the homes do have wood stoves used for cooking. Many of the native people still use their fireplaces for cooking. This is a shot of the South House with the "river" and footbridge in the foreground.
Here is the photo of a horno, Spanish for "oven." These ovens are used for baking bread and processing their meats. Have you ever tasted Indian Bread? Mmmm! Good! The way it's done is that the women build a hot cedar fire, then remove the ash before placing the bread or other pastries in the oven to bake. The opening is usually covered with a thick piece of wood, or large rocks.
Here is another view of the creek with the North House off to the left and looking toward Pueblo Peak.
This is the more "recent" San Geronimo Church, built in 1850, and registered as a National Historic Landmark. Mass is conducted at 7 a.m. every Sunday by a Catholic priest from the town of Taos.
Here is a shot of one of the church windows, taken from the north side of the church.
Click on this photo so you can read the inscription. It is acknowledging the business who recently refaced the church.
And I couldn't pass this up. As we were leaving the village and headed for the parking lot I saw this sign. I was amused by its name and pondered what caused someone to name such a road. Any thoughts?


Leedra said...

All those crosses. Different looking, but not bad.

Linda in Erie said...

So much history there. Being 1000 years old is hard to imagine but I suppose they kept the outside repaired with new coatings of the adobe mixture over all those years and there isn't much fire hazard being the straw is in the mud. Maybe there isn't that much precip. there either that would cause problems with the adobe. I'm glad to here about your trip. We will put this place on our list of places to stop and see when we get out there to New Mexico.

Kathiesbirds said...

A $5 camera fee? O my goodness! What will they think of next! A lisence to breathe perhaps? What a beautiful place though. Amazing photos. Well, at least you got your money's worth and then some! I didn't know even half the stuff that you wrote about. Very interesting post!

Shellmo said...

You captured so many amazing photos. Amusing to hear the story of the use of the ladders to be pulled in if they felt threatened by intruders - if only it was that easy today!
The Rotten Tree road sign is funny - I think a grumpy building contractor named it.

Mary C said...

Hi Leedra - like most everything else in this village, the crosses are individually hand made. Within the village there is no electricity or indoor plumbing.

Hi Linda - the trip will be well worth it. As you mentioned about the walls...yes, they periodically keep the walls maintained by adding more adobe to them. Indoors the walls are "white-washed." The hot sun during the summer months and the cold blowing snow in the winter months are the elements that damage the adobe.

Hi Kathie - I'm glad you found my post interesting. There is so much culture and history to be learned all over in the Southwest, as I am sure you are finding out, too. I thought it was interesting that there was a "camera fee." But their entrance fees are quite reasonable, and paying an extra $5 did not seem so bad. The villagers put the fees to good use - to help with the maintenance of the entire pueblo.

Hi Shelley - I like your thought about a grumpy contractor naming the road. ;o)

Mel said...

Hola :)

Have you ever tried food cooked in those 'hornos'?? It's just delicious!!

This was a great post, you made me want to visit, camera fee and all!

Mary C said...

Hi Mel - I haven't had anything baked in those hornos, but my husband has had the Indian Fry Bread he bought some years ago when we visited. I think it was baked in the horno. Anyway, I hope someday you get the chance to visit. You will, no doubt, be in awe of these native people. Thanks for stopping by. It's been a while, but I know you've been really busy with your work.

RuthieJ said...

Looks like a neat place to visit Mary. You got some great pictures and I'm glad you put your "camera fee" to good use by sharing them with us.

Mary C said...

Hi, Ruthie. I hope someday you'll have the opportunity to visit New Mexico. You really would enjoy it, and there's plenty to see all over the state. I'm glad you enjoyed the photos, and I'm glad I have the opportunity to share my travel photos with everyone.


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