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Taos is New Mexico True
Taos, NM
Tranditional dancers at the Taos Fiestas

When the conquistadores came to what’s now New Mexico in the 16th century, they brought their faith and traditions with them from Spain. Many of these traditions live on today, but few are as colorful as the Taos Fiestas. Local lore suggests that Las Fiestas de Taos (the Feasts of Santa Ana and Santiago) have been celebrated for hundreds of years in Taos in some form. Only three times in the last century have Las Fiestas de Taos not occured. There were no Fiestas in 1946 for reasons unknown; they were cancelled in 1969 because of unspecified “hippie problems;” and no Fiestas took place in 2020 due to serious COVID-19 concerns.

Beginning as solely a Catholic tradition meant to honor the feast days of Taos’ patron saints―and those of Spain―Las Fiestas de Taos live on today as a community-wide time to pause amid summer’s labors. Folks gather on Taos Plaza to eat, drink, dance, and be merry, and religious ceremonies wrap the celebration in faith and mystery. For Catholics, patron saints provide guidance and protection in life. Santa Ana, patron of the elderly, homemakers, mothers, and the poor, and Santiago, patron of hunters, laborers, pilgrims, and soldiers, are honored guests at this three-day celebration.

The Annual Celebration of Las Fiestas de Taos

Every July, Las Fiestas de Taos live on through the local and regional bands and singers that fill the plaza from noon on Friday through Sunday evening with the sounds of guitars, horns, drums, accordions, and violins. Hands clap, feet stomp, and whistles and voices call out as partners dance their way through the Gran Baile on Saturday night. Dance troupes, from flamenco and Aztecan to ballet and modern, shake the floorboards of the pavilion. A marcha (procession) leads worshippers from the Fiestas mass at Our Lady of Guadalupe back to the plaza, lifted up by the sounds of Mariachi.

There are two parades over the three-day celebration, including a children’s parade, where Taos’ youngest cheer, dance, and sometimes animate giant puppets to the delight of the crowd. The spirit of Las Fiestas de Taos lives on in the minds of the many generations of fiesta-goers who have taken a ride on Tío Vivo, a carousel thought to have been built in the 1880s. Among the youth riding Tío Vivo each year, many will someday bring their own children and grandkids to the Fiestas.

The Fiestas Queen

One tradition of Las Fiestas de Taos that lives on dates to at least 1927: the crowning of la reina (the Fiestas queen) and the royal court. La reina, a young, unmarried Catholic woman, and her four princesas, preside as role models at other fiestas across New Mexico as well as public celebrations throughout the year, such as the Taos Pueblo Pow Wow. These women safeguard and promote the customs of the four-centuries-old Hispanic culture in Taos.

As Don Francisco Trujillo, President of the Taos Fiesta Council, points out, “How do you know where you want to go if you don’t know where you come from?” Don Francisco recounts a favorite Fiesta moment: each year the Queen, her court, entourage, and a Mariachi group visit the Taos Living Center at lunchtime to share food, music, and nostalgia. No doubt some of the center’s residents once rode Tío Vivo themselves.

¡Que Vivan Las Fiestas! Long live the Fiestas de Taos!