Best Famous Pueblo
of "New Mexico's Best"
technically not in the town of Taos, the pueblo of Taos
might as well be. It is only two miles north of the plaza and
has loomed like a shadow over its European-dominated neighbor
since the latter's founding by Spanish settlers in 1617. If nothing
else, one must give Taos Pueblo and its people applause
for their endurance.
a thousand or more years ago, the two multistoried adobe apartment
houses that dominate the community have looked much the same since
Coronado and his conquistadors visited them in 1540. Small wonder,
then, that the Spanish later adapted the Indians' (and Moors')
mud-and-straw construction techniques to build their own New Mexico
houses, many of which have lasted two centuries or more.
and awe-inspiring as it is to see the venerable Taos Pueblo structures
still in use after so many years, there is something disconcerting
about going there as a tourist. After all, how would you feel
if cars and buses pulled up in your driveway all day, every day,
disgorging hundreds of strangers who snapped pictures of where
and how you live? Would you like to be asked constantly by someone
you'd never met if he or she could take your picture?
rationalize that the pueblo invites tourism, but is it sufficient
payment for a certain loss of dignity? No matter, there's no talk
of closing the pueblo to tourists-who bring considerable income
to the tribe-and it remains a must-see destination simply because
of the complex experience of being there.
the buildings themselves, and the wonderful play of light and
shadow against the textured surfaces, there's not much to see
in Taos Pueblo, unless you come on a special occasion or would
like to buy something from one of the many Indians selling jewelry,
food or drinks. Many of the pueblo's buildings and 95,000 acres
are off-limits, and you should never enter any homes without being
invited. But if invited, it's an opportunity you shouldn't pass
You Go: Taos Pueblo, about 2 miles north of the Taos Plaza,
is open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. visitors are subject to a
$5-per-car admission fee and an additional $45 fee for still photography.
Higher fees are assessed for videotaping and sketching. Tours
are offered by members of the tribe, who can summarize the pueblo's
Tip: The best time to visit Taos Pueblo is during a dance
ceremonial or on a feast day. For example, on the two concurrent
feast days of San Geronimo, at the end of September, young male
members of the tribe try to shimmy up tall poles, to untie bundles
of food and trinkets tied to the very top. This lighthearted spectacle,
which includes foot races and dancing and the cavorting of painted
clowns, lasts all afternoon.
vendors sell food, drinks and artwork along the Rio Taos, which
flows through the center of the pueblo. Other special days are
Dec. 25, Jan. 1, Jan. 6 and July 10-12. Photography during dances
is not allowed.
Mahler is author of "New Mexico"s Best" and several other
books. A journalist and photographer as well, he specializes in
travel writing, among other subjects. He has contributed to National
Public Radio since 1973 and to the Los Angeles Times since
1979. He has written thousands of articles for more than 100 magazines
and newspapers, including The New Mexican, New Mexico magazine
and Santa Fean magazine. A longtime resident of New Mexico,
he lives in Santa Fe.
a full listing of Richard Mahler's books, and to place orders
for them, visit Amazon.com.