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taos history

The Taos Valley has been a major trade and travel route since human presence was first felt in the area. Archeological evidence suggests that people have been using and moving through the Taos Valley for at least the past 9,000 years.Taos Pueblo

The ancestors of the Pueblo people were the first permanent inhabitants of the Valley. Room blocks and pit houses in the Taos area testify to their presence since 900 AD. Around 1200 AD, they aggregated into small above-ground structures of 50-100 rooms.

Many believe the Taos Pueblo was constructed around 1450 as a multistory complex. However archeologists predominantly place the date of construction of Taos Pueblo in the 14th century on or about 1350. Unfortunately, there is no known recorded date. In any case, the Pueblo Indians depended upon nature for their survival, and therefore treated nature as an organizing and spiritual element in their lives.

At the time of the arrival of the Europeans, all of Taos Valley was in the domain of Taos Pueblo Indians. In 1540, Francisco de Coronado, a Spanish conquistador and explorer, was authorized to explore the area by the King of Spain, Francisco de Coronado led the expedition into New Mexico. After experiencing much resistance from the Pueblos of the region, no further expeditions were authorized until 1598, when Don Juan de Oñate established a colonial capital at the current San Juan Pueblo. Oñate and his soldiers and settlers were awarded titles and believed that they would make their fortunes by finding gold, silver, and mercury (quicksilver). A captain of Oñate’s who was sent out to look for food and clothing made the first contact with the Pueblos of Picuris and Taos. The captain’s name was Hernando de Alvarado.

During the 1600s, the Spanish strengthened their control in the Taos Valley and settled in largeencomiendas (trustees who held a specific number of natives in trust) bordering the Rio Grande River. For many years there was a clash between the two cultures with battles and revolts.

The Spanish were driven out of Taos at one point and the resettlement and reestablishment of Spanish civil government in Taos Valley did not occur again until 1715. After that time, Spanish focus shifted from acquisition and exploitation to permanent settlement.

With this new focus, Hispano settlers interacted extensively with the Pueblo and other Indian neighbors. The three groups engaged in trading, informally and through trade fairs. Hispanos brought many new types of fruits and vegetables into Taos Valley and introduced livestock to the Pueblos. The Hispanos introduced modern irrigation systems called acequias, an Arabic word meaning irrigation ditch. The Pueblos taught the Hispanos to build with mud and timber. The Pueblos adopted the Hispanos’ adobe brickmolds and horno ovens brought from Spain. The land grant system, initiated by the Spanish, blended with the Pueblo tradition and evolved into the current style of the central plaza and the surrounding buildings and churches, for which Taos Valley is now known.

After the period of Mexican rule, the area was claimed as a territory for the United States in1846. President Fillmore established New Mexico as an official territory in 1850, and Taos became a county in 1852. Taos Valley flourished during this period and other cultures found their way into the territory. Taos was a very solid trade center for the region.

In 1898, two young artists from the East named Ernest Blumenschein and Bert Phillips discovered the Blumenscheinvalley after their wagon broke down north of Taos. They decided to stay, captivated by the beauty of the area. As word of their discovery spread throughout the art community, they were joined by other associates. In 1915, six artists formed the Taos Society of Artists. Soon other intellectuals such as Mabel Dodge Luhan and D.H. Lawrence joined the Taos scene, adding greatly to the social and intellectual life of the community. To date Taos is known world-wide by artists, art patrons, and inquisitive minds who continue to find it a mecca of inspiration.

The history of Taos is a story of change, adaptation, and the integration of three cultures that simultaneously complicates and enriches the reality in which Taoseños live today. You are invited to explore a small part of this rich history and culture with the Taos Historic District self guided tour.
The map and brochure will assist you in your journey.

Welcome to Taos, Bien Venidos, and Na-Tah-La-Wamah.

Taos Art History

From the native pottery created from the earth to the paintings of the Moderns, art has always had a place in Taos.

Timeline of Events

A timeline of the important events that have shaped Taos, from ancient times of hunter-gatherers to the modern day art colony.

100 Years of Taos Art

1915: Six artists formed an alliance: the Taos Society of Artists, which would transform Taos into a world-renowned art colony.

Historic Taos Plaza

The heart of Taos, where locals gather for summer concerts and visitors enjoy the shops and galleries all year long.

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