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Taos, New Mexico

Taos, New MexicoTaos is a town in Taos County in the north-central region of New Mexico in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Taos is home to more than twenty sites on the National Register of Historic Places.

Initially founded in 1615, it was occupied sporadically until its formal establishment in 1795 by Nuevo México Governor Fernando Chacón to act as fortified plaza and trading outpost.

It was intended for the neighboring Native American Taos Pueblo and Hispano communities, including Ranchos de Taos, Cañon, Taos Canyon, Ranchitos, El Prado, and Arroyo Seco. The town was incorporated in 1934.

As of the 2010 census, its population was 5,716. Taos is the county seat of Taos County. The English name Taos derives from the native Taos language meaning "(place of) red willows".

The Taos Pueblo, which borders the north boundary of the town of Taos, has been occupied for nearly a millennium.

It is estimated that the pueblo was built between 1000 and 1450 A.D., with some later expansion, and the pueblo is considered to be one of the oldest continuously inhabited communities in the United States.

Located in a tributary valley off the Rio Grande, it is the most northern of the New Mexico pueblos. The puebloat some places is five stories high - a combination of many individual homes with common walls.

Taos, New MexicoThere are over 1,900 Taos Puebloans living within the greater pueblo-area community. Many of them have modern homes near their fields and live there in the summer months, only staying at their homes within the main North or South pueblo buildings during cooler weather.

About 150 people live within the main pueblo buildings year-round. Taos Pueblo was added as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992.

Taos was established in 1615 as Don Fernando de Taos, following the Spanish conquest of the Indian Pueblo villages. Initially, relations between the Spanish settlers and Taos Pueblo were amicable.

But resentment of meddling by the missionaries, and demands by encomenderos for tribute, led to a revolt in 1640 when Taos Indians killed their priest and a number of Spanish settlers and subsequently fled the pueblo, not returning until 1661.

In 1680, Taos Pueblo joined in the widespread Pueblo Revolt. After the Spanish Reconquest of 1692, Taos Pueblo continued armed resistance to the Spanish until 1696, when Governor Diego de Vargas defeated the Indians at Taos Canyon.

During the 1770s, Taos was repeatedly raided by Comanches who lived on the plains of what is now eastern Colorado. Juan Bautista de Anza, governor of the Province of New Mexico, led a successful punitive expedition in 1779 against the Comanches.

Taos, New MexicoBetween 1780 and 1800, Don Fernando de Taos. by now simply called Taos, was established. Between 1796 and 1797, the Don Fernando de Taos land grant gave land to 63 Spanish families in the Taos valley.

It was built as a fortified plaza with adobe buildings and is now a central plaza surrounded by residential areas. Mountain men who trapped beaver nearby made Taos their home in the early 1800's.

Mexico ceded the region to the United States in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848 after the Mexican–American War.

After the U.S. takeover of New Mexico in 1847, Hispanics and American Indians in Taos staged a rebellion, known as the Taos Revolt, in which the newly appointed U.S. Governor, Charles Bent, was killed.

New Mexico was a territory of the United States beginning 1850 and finally achieved full statehood in 1912.

For historical reasons, the American flag is displayed continuously at Taos Plaza - both day and night. This began from the time of the American Civil War, when Confederate sympathizers in the area attempted to remove the flag.

The Union officer Kit Carson sought to discourage this activity by having guards surround the area and fly the flag 24 hours a day.

Taos, New Mexico"The Padre of Isleta", Anton Docher first served as a priest in Taos before leaving for Isleta in 1891.

Taos Society of Artists and Taos Art Colony - Beginning in 1899, artists began to settle in Taos; six formed the Taos Society of Artists in 1915 and in time, the Taos Art Colony developed.

Many works of art were made of local scenes, especially of theTaos Pueblo and its activities - as the artists often modelled Native Americans from the pueblo in their paintings.

Some of the artists' studios have been preserved and may be viewed by visitors to Taos.

These include the Ernest L. Blumenschein House, the Eanger Irving Couse House and Studio Joseph Henry Sharp Studios, and the Nicolai Fechin house - all of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Influential late 20th-century Taos artists include R. C. Gorman and Agnes Martin. Taos is home to more than twenty sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

About 3 miles or 4.8 kilometers north of Taos is Taos Pueblo. Picuris Pueblo is located about 25 miles or 40 kilometers to the south.

The Fiestas de Taos is an annual community celebration in the Taos Plaza honoring the feast of the two patron saints of Taos, Santa Ana and Santiago.

Taos, New MexicoIt is normally celebrated the third weekend of July. A commemorative mass and procession from Our Lady of Guadalupe Church officially opens the event on Friday evening, followed with the crowning of the Fiesta Queen.

The celebration continues with music and dance performances scheduled on the plaza every hour. Two parades are staged, a children's parade on Saturday and the larger Fiesta Parade on Sunday.

Located just north of the Taos Plaza, Bent Street street was the location of Governor Charles Bent's home.

Governor Bent was scalped and killed by Pueblo warriors during the Taos Revolt on January 19, 1847 - and during the revolt, Bent's horses were set free from their stable.

The Helene Wurlitzer Foundation is a non-profit organization based in Taos that operates an Artist in Residency program for up to eleven artists - each year divided into three residency sessions of three months apiece.

Former principal trombone of the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra and seasonal Taos resident, Abbie Conant, runs a studio three blocks from the plaza. In addition to the studio having capacity to seat 60, there is also a two bedroom living space.

In addition to her and her husband's own performances, the studio has hosted poetry readings, presentations and performance from local Taoseñas and fellows from the Wurlitzer Foundation.

Taos, New Mexico Emily Ann Hart teaches math and practices yoga when she is not traveling. Read her blog about her experience of Taos from the perspective of a solo female traveler on her website linked above

Many of the historic sites are homes and studios of artists, including the Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Eanger Irving Couse House and Studio—Joseph Henry Sharp Studios, the Nicolai Fechin House, the Leon Gaspard House, and the Ernest Martin Hennings House.

Doc Martin's restaurant in the historic Taos Inn was previously the office of Thomas "Doc" Martin while other parts of the inn served as his home and the birthplace of the Taos Society of Artists. On Ledoux street, just south of the Taos Plaza, is the Ernest L. Blumenschein House and Harwood House.

The center of the Taos Downtown Historic District is the Taos Plaza. Just west of that is the Our Lady of Guadalupe Church. North of the Taos Plaza is the Governor Charles Bent House and the Taos Inn.

Further north in Taos The Bernard Beimer House. On the southwestern edge of the Taos Historic district is La Loma Plaza Historic District. East of the plaza on Kit Carson Road is the Kit Carson House.

North of Taos is the Turley Mill and Distillery Site and the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. Just outside Taos in Ranchitos is the Martinez Hacienda, the home turned museum of the late Padre Antonio José Martínez.

South of Taos is the Ranchos de Taos Plaza with the San Francisco de Asis Mission Church. About 20 miles or 32 kilometers northwest is the D. H. Lawrence Ranch - originally known as the Kiowa Ranch and now owned by the University of New Mexico.

Taos, New MexicoIt is the home of D. H. Lawrence, the English novelist of the 1920s. It is believed that his ashes are buried there at the D. H. Lawrence Memorial.

There are three art museums in Taos: Harwood Museum of Art, Taos Art Museum and Millicent Rogers Museum that provide art from the Pueblo Native Americans, Taos Society of Artists and modern and contemporary artists of the Taos art colony.

The town has more than 80 art galleries, and there are several houses of the Taos Society of Artists.

There are several local venues for the performing arts in Taos. The Taos Center for the Arts (TCA) draws nationally renowned and local performers at the Taos Community Auditorium.

They also present independent film series. Three chamber music groups perform at TCA: Taos School of Music, Taos Chamber Music Group, and Music from Angel Fire.

The Harwood Museum of Art is the site of other performances and lectures. The Town of Taos Convention Center offers a venue for other local performances.

The Taos Talking Pictures Film Festival was a film festival held in the town from the mid-1990s to 2003. The festival's top prize was 5 acres or 2.0 hectares of land.

Taos, New MexicoIn contemporary Taos, a community of ‘voluntary anarchists’ took off-the-grid living to the next level at Earthship Biotecture, and they would like to teach you how to live sustainably - one earth-rammed tire at a time.

Just a few miles from where New Mexico’s Route 64 crosses the Rio Grande, a collection of alien looking buildings stand out in the otherwise desolate landscape.

These houses - 79 in total - are built partially into their natural surroundings, each with a wall of windows facing directly south.

These houses, with rounded corners and colorful walls made from cans and bottles, may look more like spaceships than human dwellings, but the opposite is true: The buildings are called 'earthships'.

Located just outside of Taos, this community - known as the Greater World Earthship Community provides full-time housing to at least 130 people.

Under the name Earthship Biotecture, it also hosts an academy in partnership with Western Colorado University, an internship program, and a visitor center open to the public.

Earthship Biotecture is almost totally self-sustainable and their mission is to teach others how to live off the grid.

Taos, New MexicoEarthship Biotecture’s visitor center is housed in a typical two-bedroom earthship. The earthship concept was created in the 1970s by architect Michael Reynolds, who still works and resides in the Taos community.

Earthships are built to use natural resources—such as sunlight and rain—and turn them into clean energy. Built with recycled and natural materials, the houses are designed to produce water, electricity, and food for their residents year round.

"The basic premise of the earthship concept is that we're looking to sustainably harvest naturally occurring phenomena so that our home will take care of us, versus us going out into the world, juggling jobs we may or may not like, just to come back and take care of a home," says Adam Baisley, one of the staff members working at Earthship Biotecture's visitor center.

"We all have a million other things we'd rather be doing with our time and if we can get our utilities for free, why should we pay somebody else to give them to us?"

The indoor greenhouse grows plants and vegetables year-round using skylights that help regulate the air temperature. The visitor center is set up inside a typical two-bedroom earthship, where visitors are encouraged to take a self-guided tour to see how it works in practice.

Taos, New MexicoThe tour starts in the indoor greenhouse. The entire southern wall of the building, which consists of angled floor-to-ceiling windows, is covered in greenery. Plants and vegetables grow from soil in the ground as well as in hanging buckets, and require very little maintenance due to an intricate water harvesting system.

First, rainwater is collected using a cistern on the roof and channeled into a water organizing module, where it is filtered and fed into the house for consumption.

Wastewater from sinks, showers, and washing machines (known as gray water) is sent into an underground botanical cell, where it is used to water the plants in the indoor greenhouse.

The gray water also goes back into the toilets in the house. After it’s flushed, the black water from the toilets is pumped into a septic tank, treated by separating solids from liquids, and then fed to an outdoor garden in the same way the gray water is used to water indoor plants.

This means that the harvested water is being used four times—and it is all fully automated. The earthships have windows facing south.

Windows on the south side of the house are designed for maximum solar gain during winter and they limit the amount of sun that gets in during summer.

Taos, New MexicoSolar panels on the roof create electricity, offering what Baisley calls 'sustainable autonomy'. There is no need to pay the government or private companies for utilities.

While earthships can grow fruits and vegetables year-round, most residents are not entirely self-sustainable when it comes to food. 'Humans are humans,' Baisley says. 'We love our variety and regardless of what somebody says to you, there's no way they want to eat kale chips every day.'

'This is EVE,' says Baisley as he shows me inside the largest structure on the premise. The two-story building is impressive in size, and it has a cathedral-like feel to it.

The walls are almost entirely covered with empty bottles and cans, creating a stained-glass effect throughout the building. Massive, arched windows help flood the main room in natural light.

"Depending on who you talk to in the company, anywhere from 25 to 40 percent of the bottles and cans you see here were actually drank by the crew members, the academy students, and the interns themselves," Baisley says, adding:

"Depending how inebriated they are when they talk to you, that number may be subject to change."

EVE stands for Earthship Village Ecologies. Designed as an 'urban housing environment,' it's made up of five studio apartments that share a communal living space.

Taos, New MexicoIn 2007, New Mexico Legislature passed the Sustainable Development Testing Site Act, written by Reynolds. It allowed Reynolds and his team to research and test sustainable housing on a two-acre plot within Earthship Biotecture.

EVE is the result, but it was never fully finished. "Unfortunately, we were given a five-year permit to build whatever we wanted with no regards to code enforcement or regulations, with the strict requirement that we stop building after that permit expired," Baisley says.

Today, EVE is used to grow plants and vegetables year-round. It is the only building in the community that faces southwest instead of directly south, in an effort to pick up the most light from sunsets.

And it seems to be working: The plants inside are thriving, despite the fact that the windows are made with marine-grade plastic instead of glass. "This is what you would find in boats," Baisley says.

The residents of the Greater Earthship Community represent different demographics and socioeconomic backgrounds. What they have in common is a passion for sustainability and autonomy.

"The majority of people here, I've found, are in some way, shape, or form voluntary anarchists," Baisley says. "Not the kind throwing Molotov cocktails - the people here are really friendly, they just do not want to be forced to participate in systems that they see as corrupt or amoral."

There is a sense of urgency that permeates the Biotechture’s mission - Earthships are presented as a way to reduce the need for fossil fuels and combat global warming.

Taos, New MexicoThe world is catching on - there are currently earthships in South Africa, Australia, Argentina, Guatemala, and several countries across Europe, among others.

The Earthship Biotecture visitor center is open every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas. Summer hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. A self-guided tour is $8, no reservations needed. Guided tours can be scheduled by calling the visitor center at (575) 613-4409.

The Carson National Forest and Rio Grande del Norte National Monument provide numerous opportunities for recreation, such as hiking, skiing, fly fishing, horseback riding, golfing, hot air ballooning, llama trekking, rafting, and mountain biking.

The South Boundary National Recreation trail, east of town in Carson National Forest, is consistently ranked the best mountain bike trail in New Mexico.

There are also numerous hot springs along the Rio Grande and in the Taos Mountains. Among them a historical site called Stage Coach, which used to double as a brothel during the times of the Old West.

Nearby, the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad provides a ride through the Toltec Gorge and Rocky Mountain passes in an authentic narrow-gauge steam railroad.

Taos, New MexicoIn the winter, many people come to Taos to ski in the mountains. Nearby Wheeler Peak, at 13,161 feet or 4,011 meters, is the highest peak in New Mexico.

The Taos area has four ski areas – Taos Ski Valley, Red River Ski Area, Sipapu Ski Area) and Angel Fire Ski Area. Other winter activities include hot air ballooning, horseback riding, snow-shoeing, cross-country skiing, ski skating, ice skating, ice fishing and snowmobiling.

Town of Taos

Emily Ann Hart Blog about Taos

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