Taos Pueblo – Exploring a 1,000-Year-Old Village

    

It’s not easy for me to pick a favorite destination from my visit to New Mexico. White Sands National Monument, Bandelier National Monument, and Old Town Albuquerque were just a few of the highlights I experienced on my first trip to the southwestern United States. However, if I absolutely had to name one attraction that shouldn’t be missed, I would choose Taos Pueblo.

Taos Pueblo, a village that has remained inhabited for about 1,000 years, sits in the northern part of the state. Its location makes for a great day trip from either Santa Fe, which is less than two hours away, or from Taos Ski Valley, which is just over half an hour away.

Visitors can choose to roam around independently or to take a walking tour. While there is no mandatory cost (beyond the $16 admission to the pueblo) for the tour, tipping the guide is highly recommended. The tour was brief but informative. The church, the only building where interior photography is prohibited, was our first stop. Our guide told us that the religion practiced by the people of the pueblo is a combination of Catholicism and a native religion. Though this ignited our curiosity, we were told that details of the native religion may not be shared with visitors.

We next walked over to the site and ruins of the previous church. During the war between the U.S. and Mexico in the mid-1800s, residents gathered in this sanctuary, seeking refuge in a building they thought would be respected as a place of sanctuary. Unfortunately, their enemies did not recognize it as such and attacked, killing the people inside.

After such a bleak stop, I was glad that we next learned about a more pleasant topic – food. We saw an adobe oven and learned that these are still used to bake bread, which can be purchased in several of the shops in the pueblo. Don’t worry though, the shops are not the commercial entities that you may imagine. Instead, the shops occupy homes on the pueblo. Going inside offers not only the chance to view and buy local artwork and foods, but also a glimpse into the inside of the buildings. After all, when is the last time you shopped in a 1,000-year-old store?

We conclude our tour at the river that flows through the pueblo. This is the most convenient source of water for the full-time residents, as the pueblo does not have running water. Similarly, buildings in the pueblo do not have electricity. How many people live with these restrictions? Our tour guide estimated that five to eight families live on the pueblo full-time; the Taos Pueblo website puts the total number of residents at 150. While many of us may assume that one of these estimates must be incorrect, consider the variations in the definition of family. If including extended family members, the numbers may not be all that different.

As the tour lasted less than 30 minutes, we had plenty of time afterwards to explore the grounds, shops, and bakeries. Off-limits areas are clearly marked, so we didn’t have to constantly worry about mistakenly wandering somewhere that we shouldn’t.

We concluded our visit of the pueblo by purchasing some freshly-made fry bread. We had the option of fry bread made from either white flour or blue corn. Sampling both revealed a strong difference in texture between the two. A woman cooked the bread as guests ordered it, so ours came directly from the pan. After enjoying it on a bench by the river, our time in Taos Pueblo concluded, and we set off to explore other parts of New Mexico.

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