Boston represents many things to American history: from its beginnings as a valuable trading port, to its role as a cradle for the American Revolution. Boston remains an historical conduit to those early years of our nation, with its access to European markets and its own evolution of a fiercely independent identity. Taos, however, remains much less well known than Beantown, but in the roles both cities have played throughout the development of this country, we will find many points of comparison and variance.
At one time, Taos and Boston were both tiny outposts of the New World. This story is about the vast differences in each city’s development through trade. If you lived in New England in the late 17th and 18th centuries, Boston would have been one of the major ports where you could receive or ship goods back and forth to Europe. If you needed hinges or locks, woven fabric or clothing, leather saddles and harnesses, or brass candlestick holders and china, these important items were just 60 days away. Place any special order through a broker, come back in 2 months and pick up these valuable goods right at the dock. Stores for these goods lined the streets around Boston Harbor and you might be able to just walk in and purchase them on the spot. From Savannah to New York to Providence, the same opportunities existed all along the Eastern Seaboard for ready access to European goods.
Yankee ingenuity, thrift, and mercantilism thrived and were crucial to the growth along the east coast of America. Hardiness, grit and determination necessary to survive those East Coast winters helped contribute to the strength of the region. In addition, the ability to order and receive European manufactured products by ship, and the convenience and speed with which to receive them, gave New England the leg up necessary to lay the foundations of what would later become the seat of the American Industrial Revolution.
In the 17th century, as the east coast identity was forged, a contrasting selfhood was taking shape. In the Spanish province of New Mexico, at the very end of the Camino Real in the little village of Taos, colonists in this part of the New World faced a completely different set of challenges. While early trade and settlement in the eastern seaboard relied on rivers, waterways and the sea, the exchange of goods and ideas in New Mexico was oriented along land trails – most notably the Camino Real. This comparative isolation would prove important in the forging of a unique New Mexican identity.
In the case of trade, the landlocked route meant a much slower pace than the swift waterways oriented east. To even arrive at a port required a difficult overland journey. Retail orders would be relayed with caravans and itinerant merchants, resulting in periods of uncertainty. When, at last, an order arrived in Veracruz, a ship had to travel to Cadiz, Spain (a longer voyage than from Boston to England), and return with the goods that would begin another 6-month journey north.
So, here is the reality of Taos New, Mexico. The Martinez Hacienda, today a living museum, is an example of life in the provinces of Nueva Espana. The hacienda was a walled fortress, big enough to bring all of the livestock and servants into its giant 2 center courtyards whenever Comanche or Apache Indians attacked. The isolation from colonial sources of wealth and protection inculcated a need for self-reliance for the necessities of survival. The Martinez Hacienda showcases the necessary structures used to develop the specialized divisions of labor inherent within the social structure.
Around these courtyards was a veritable “streetscape” of “shops” – so to speak. Each room had its own job to perform: the grinding of grains, the blacksmithing of hinges and locks, the weaving of clothes. Wood carvers, furniture makers, leather tanners, saddle- and shoe-makers, potters who made the kitchenware and silversmiths who crafted everything from candlestick holders to the jewelry worn by the heads of the household. Both men and women – hat makers and vintners alike – made up the complex machine that was the early structure of this western city. Everything necessary for life in the wilds was within reach because of the hard work of the community that was a separate world of its own, with no ready access to Europe or its manufacturing power.
Spain for hundreds of years forbade any trade with the developing United States, thereby increasing and prolonging Nueva Mexico’s dependence on itself for almost everything. It was not until 1821, with Mexico’s independence, that trade along the Old Santa Fe Trail began – bringing American goods swiftly from Missouri to New Mexico. In fact, European goods traveling up the rivers from New Orleans reached New Mexico faster than they could travel from Durango, Mexico to Santa Fe. Imagine the difficulties experienced by the many generations of Spanish colonists from the Conquistador Onate’s arrival in New Mexico in the 1590’s until 1821 when the Old Santa Fe Trail opened up.
Our historical account of Taos and Boston – one city bound by land and the other positioned within the fluidity of water – will hopefully provide you with an understanding of each locale’s distinct path to become the iconic places they are today.
Boston’s easy access to European markets and their position along the Charles River ensured that a thriving society, based on trade and resource extraction, could develop. A Cosmopolitan city, in conversation with European intellectuals, could foster its own educational institutions and philosophies. And it was the voracious demand from a wide variety of markets for goods transported through Boston that ensured the city grew to become a hotbed for independence. When England attempted to retain greater control of Boston’s economic interests, it led to the beginning of the American Revolution.
Taos, meanwhile, developed quite differently. Due to their landlocked isolation, movement of their goods was heavily restricted by overland trade, making tax collection easy for the colonial Spanish government. The self-reliance found in the Martinez Hacienda showed the immense resourcefulness and the intricate filling of roles, but it limited opportunity for industrial development. While Boston’s access to the interior of the nation and the waterways of the world bred independence, the isolation of Taos ultimately ensured dependence upon Colonial authorities for access to wider markets.
Sure, the Yankees with their Clipper ships were a hardy bunch of fellows, but the Martinez’s of Taos, and the many hundreds of other colonists, survived and prospered in a part of our country countless times more remote and isolated than the Boston of the early 18th Century. Studying the history of the two cities provides us with an opportunity to see the ways in which settlement shaped the identities of the many disparate elements that, today, define America.
Taos is just a short jaunt north from the Inn. Read about the western city that has become a Mecca of sorts for many who wish to connect with the history of the land and the perseverance of the people who forged its path.
All Inn on the Alameda blog posts are written by Joe & Michael Schepps. Read about the authors here.
La Conquistadora de Santa Fe
In a small Chapel within St. Francis’ Cathedral lies a remarkable figure. A unique piece of devotional art and an amazing witness to history, La Conquistadora, continues to be venerated today within the Catholic Church. Standing only 30 inches tall, she is the oldest recorded Madonna in the United States. She was built in Spain, travelled to the new world and witness to the bloody climax of the Pueblo Revolt. Then smuggled into exile, protected from harm, companion to De Vargas through his reconquest of Santa Fe and New Mexico, and worshipped today as a divine symbol of peace and avoidance of bloodshed. The history of this Icon is an apt representation of the rich and colorful past and present of New Mexico.
Carved in Spain during the early 17th century, the delicately featured Icon first entered recorded history in 1625. A Franciscan missionary by the name of Fray Alonso de Venavidez installed and dedicated a small shrine in Santa Fe at the Church of the Assumption. Changes in Catholic dogma had begun to emphasize Mary and the Immaculate Conception, and the church became the first shrine to Mary in what would become the United States.
Beyond the walls of the chapel, however, there was great unrest. These were the years of harsh conversion, dissolution of traditional social structures, forced labor, cruel punishments and devastating disease amongst the native Pueblo inhabitants. It was in this context that the Pueblo Revolt, as discussed elsewhere on the site, began.
Don Diego de Vargas
It is said that The Lady had warned the Spanish settlers of the coming revolt with dreams and visions and signs. Despite these premonitions, the settlers were unprepared for the violence of the Pueblo Revolt, when a coordinated rising amongst the pueblos exploded on August 12, 1680. Led by the charismatic holy man, Po’Pay, the Puebloans sought to eradicate all traces of the Catholic religion. Santa Fe burned, 21 friars were killed, and the colonists fled. Amidst the violence and chaos, The Lady was rescued from the burning church and accompanied the fleeing settlers.
Moving to what is today Juarez, Mexico, the settlers nursed hopes of returning to their former homes. The Lady was held by the exiled settlers for twelve years. It was in 1691 that Spain sent forth Don Diego De Vargas to reclaim the New Mexican territory. Setting out with the exiled colonists and his soldiers, De Vargas began the resettlement and reconquest of New Mexico.
Traveling with a large host under the banner of the Lady De Vargas presented an intimidating and imposing presence. Under his banner, many of the rebellious tribes surrendered peaceably and re-pledged their allegiance. It is this event, the largely peaceful reconquest of Santa Fe and New Mexico, that we still celebrate today with Fiesta. Under the banner of The Lady, now known as La Conquistadora, Santa Fe once again came under Spanish rule.
Though rebellion and harsh persecution would continue over the next few years, Santa Fe itself was not threatened again. Recognizing the improbability of the initial peaceful reconquest, the Settlers began an annual veneration in thanks for the icon’s aid.
La Conquistadora became an integral part of the native Catholic iconography. Volunteers pledged their time and money to the Icon’s celebration and exaltation. Today the Cofradia del Rosario [or Rosary Cofraternity] continues to be active in the New Mexican Catholic community.
Dressing La Conquistadora for her annual appearances soon led to her amassing a significant collection of jewels, dresses, and coverings. Her veneration is reflected in the beauty of her coverings and the elaboration of her worship. Her procession grew over time, and what was a simple shelter soon became a Chapel. Over time, a great Cathedral rose around the smaller Chapel and today the Basilica of St. Francis surrounds the Chapel.
La Conquistadora endures as a celebrated Icon to this day, remaining an essential part of Santa Fe’s temporal and spiritual history.
Jean Leon Gerome Ferris
Thanksgiving is a day usually filled with remembrances of smells of turkey and pumpkin pie, uncles and aunts, cousins, football and fall weather. But a review of the underlying history of Thanksgiving reveals a story that is far from the Norman Rockwell image of Dad carving a turkey at the dining room table in some imaginary New England home.
The real Thanksgiving celebration most likely only occurred once…and lasted three days. Neither turkey, nor potatoes, nor pumpkin pie were on the menu, but waterfowl and venison were – oh, and unsweetened cranberries (as no sugar was yet available in New England). This Thanksgiving was a very appropriate one. The first English pilgrims landed at Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1621 with hardly any survival skills suited to their new land. Most died during that first winter from starvation and exposure to the elements. 1622 proved no different; in fact, it wasn’t until 1623 that the harvests became more reliable and bountiful. If it were not for a sole Patuxet Native named Squanto, colonization would likely have been set back by decades.
To paint a more balanced picture than Norman Rockwell’s, it is rarely mentioned that in 1614, English explorers initially returned to England in ships loaded with as many as 500 Patuxet Indian slaves bound for market. This was the hapless tribe that happened to be at ground zero of these European explorers’ arrival. Later, when New England’s first settlers arrived, only one Patuxet remained alive, English-speaking Squanto, who had survived slavery in England and returned later to New England thanks to the graces of a befriended Englishman. During the first two horrible years of near starvation, the Pilgrims were taught by Squanto and the neighboring Wampanoaga people how to grow corn and to survive in this new land. Squanto also negotiated a peace treaty for the Pilgrims with the nearby and very large Wampanoaga tribe. At the end of the hardships of the first year, there indeed was a 3-day Thanksgiving feast honoring Squanto and their new neighbors, the Wampanoagas, but in reality the harvest was meager and there was little to eat that winter following this thanksgiving.
Despite the continual hardship, the word spread throughout England of this newly found “paradise” in America, so countless new settlers arrived. And as always in such situations, when a more technologically superior people enter a less advanced peoples’ land, tensions increased between races until a state of war for survival arose. And such was the case with the New England Natives and the waves of land and freedom hungry colonists. Unfortunately, soon both governors and clergy began calling for days of thanksgiving following successful victories against the natives.
In 1789, President George Washington called for “ a day of Thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favours of God Almighty”. In 1863, during the Civil War, to foster a sense of national unity, Abraham Lincoln set the date as the last Thursday in November. FDR in 1939 set the date as the 4th Thursday of November to add additional economic energy prior to Xmas, and hence the term Black Friday was probably coined, commemorating the day when retailers went from being in the red to being in the black. Our consumer driven culture solidified over the 20th century the iconic foods, settings, and modern traditions of our national holiday.
Now with the history under our soon-to-be straining belts, how better to celebrate Thanksgiving than coming to the land of the ancient Pueblos who had already been in existence for hundreds of years prior to the English explorers’ arrival on this continent?
The Inn on the Alameda’s restaurant, the Agoyo Lounge, traditionally prepares a “reservations-recommended” Thanksgiving dinner for guests and locals alike. We cook up a unique and special menu, which you can view on our website. Please join us around the fires to enjoy a day of thanksgiving for living in one of the greatest countries in the world and certainly enjoying it in one of the greatest and most unique cities in the world.
One of New Mexico’s signature scents is the roaring open fire, burning bright with Pinon and juniper. At the Inn on the Alameda we’d like to also include the tempting scents of hot cider cocktails and Toddies.
Toddy Stick & Jerry Thomas
Hot drinks are an American tradition. Early Colonial era gatherings were enlivened with the tradition of “Flipping” drinks, adding a hot iron to the cocktail to make it froth and “flip” about. The earliest recipes consisted of a blend of beer, rum and sugar. Over time, eggs were added and the beer was reduced. Eventually this drink evolved into the now familiar nogs.The father of modern Bartending, the famed Jerry Thomas, included many variations of flips in his influential books on cocktails.
No discussion of hot drinks would be complete without mentioning the traditional Irish balm: the Hot Toddy. Mixing whiskey with boiling water, sugar or honey, lemon and spices provides a revivifying effect. The vitamin C and honey help explain the soothing efficacy of the drink in treating the cold effects of winter. The toddy can be fine tuned in many different ways to individualize the drink. In the Midwestern United States it can be made with the addition of ginger ale, a decidedly non-traditional preparation.
It is good naturedness that provides the final element of hot drink perfection, the quality of welcome, which you will find at the Inn on the Alameda. Cultures around the world have terms to refer to this ineffable quality. For Germans it’s called Gemütlichkeit, the quality of a situation or location that induces a sense of welcoming coziness and unhurried warmth. That’s a standard we’re proud to offer – come see us soon for a soul-warming beverage of your choice.
Naturally, when most people think of fall colors, they think of the east coast. Coming up from the Appalachian, through the Allegheny and Blue Ridge Mountains, through New England and up to the State of Maine, everywhere fall foliage is bursting into color. Reds, yellows, and oranges are a glorious sign of the impending arrival of winter, and warmly welcome the flocks of tourists heading north and east, as numerous as birds migrating south.
Northern New Mexico is always a place to experience colors in the Fall; a burning-red chili ristra alone is worth the trip. These appear all over New Mexico about this time of year when the famous Hatch, NM green chili harvest occurs. We may not have as many pumpkins as a New England town square, but our native squashes turn just as beautiful. Like the chilis and pumpkins changing their summer clothes, in the case of trees and their leaves, it is the arrival of cooler days and longer nights, which slow and then cease the photosynthesis process, trapping sugars in the leaves – a timeless process, which results in the robust reds. As the green chlorophyll dies, the trees’ leaves begin to try and salvage other nutrients and the carotenoids, masked by the green chlorophyll during the summer, and create the glory of autumnal hues.
Each October and early November, there is almost always plenty of time to see these wonderful fall colors in and around Santa Fe. Valley cottonwoods turn golden and orange, aspens turn yellow, the Chinese Pistache becomes a ravaging deep red, and Gamble Oaks are cloaked in a soft blend of warm, burnt color. Purple Mountain Ash, ornamental crab apples and fruit trees join the chorus, while vista-wide Chamisa sprout plumes of blossoms whose bright golden yellow is unrivalled even by the mighty maples, hickories, oaks and beeches of the East Coast. One of he most amazing of all the sights is to see the quaking aspens covering the entire Sangre de Cristo mountain range just above town, while they are turning into a rippling carpet of shimmering yellows, highlighted by green pines and firs bursting above the sea of aspen gold. Hiking or mountain biking at this time of year on the many gentle – or if you prefer arduous – trails in the glorious Sangre de Cristos is just unbelievable.
An autumn stay at the Inn on the Alameda allows one an opportunity to revel in our artistic landscaping planned to capture the beauty of fall foliage concentrated on our beautiful 2 acres perfectly situated along the cottonwood lined Santa Fe River. With November just around the corner, meet at the Agoyo Lounge for dinner in front of the glowing fireplace and savor one of our specialty cocktails – maybe a hot-toddie on the patio or a warm apple cider. Whatever your taste, the Inn on the Alameda will always accommodate and satisfy your desires in an inimitable setting.