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.
The snow has come to Santa Fe, and we are delighted! More snow is predicted for the holiday, and we may even have that fabled White Christmas.
Fresh Snow Beckons!
Ski Santa Fe opened on December 15, a little later than the hoped-for Thanksgiving opening, but with real snow, no one is complaining. As of today, 31% of the ski area is open, with a 39″ base, and driving conditions up to the ski area are fine. Currently, the price of lift tickets has been lowered, but of course, that can and probably will change, as more terrain is available to ski.
Adult All Day: $50 and Adult All Day w/Peak Plus Card: $30 Teen All Day: $45 and Teen All Day w/Peak Plus Card: $25
Child All Day: $40 and Child All Day w/Peak Plus Card: $20 Senior All Day: $40 and Senior All Day w/Peak Plus Card: $20
Active Duty Military All Day: $40 Half-Day: $40 Beginner Lift Only: $34
And there’s a webcam too, if you want to see the mountain first!
In terms of rental equipment, you can stop on Hyde Park Road on the way to the ski basin and check out Cottam’s. In town, Alpine Sports is conveniently located on Sandoval and Water Street, same location for years. Santa Fe Mountain Sports is in a new spot in the Baca Street portion of the Santa Fe Railyard. And Ski Tech is an easy in and out on St. Francis Drive, just north of Cerrillos Road.
Snow Makes a Sunset Dramatic!
Skiers with a yen for more dramatic conditions can head to Taos Ski Valley, about 2 hours north of Santa Fe, and rentals are available right there. Taos is open to the top of the mountain, with a base of 24″. If you are already in New Mexico, you can even demo new equipment on Demo Days, Friday and Saturday, Dec. 19 and 20, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the base of lift #1. And if your ski vacation is planned for the new year, think about timing your visit so that you can enjoy the Taos Winter Wine Festival!
Cuddle Up by a Kiva Fireplace
Just be sure to be back at the Inn in time for our complimentary wine hour. After a day on the slopes, you will have earned it!
This week, we are pleased to welcome as a guest blogger, Taos resident Susan Mihalic, who shares her thoughts on our neighbor to the north. Susan is a writer and editor who has lived in Taos since 1995.
Beautiful Taos Mountain
The Inn on the Alameda has a great central location that enables guests to enjoy a variety of day trips, no matter what time of year or weather. Among the most popular: a day in Taos, only 70 miles north of Santa Fe and a true jewel in New Mexico’s crown. Exploring all that Taos has to offer requires more than a day, but even if your time is short, we can suggest an itinerary that will give you a satisfying taste of this high-desert town. Like Santa Fe, Taos is about 7000 feet above sea level, so be sure to drink plenty of water to prevent altitude sickness. Wear comfortable walking shoes, dress in layers, and don’t forget your camera and your sunscreen.
North of Española, you’ll enter Taos Canyon, where State Road 68 takes you alongside the Rio Grande past the communities of Dixon and Pilar. As you climb in altitude, the river veers west, creating the Rio Grande Gorge, which you will see as you leave the canyon and crest the hill that leads you into Taos.
In Ranchos de Taos, at the south end of Taos proper, you’ll find the historic San Francisco de Asis Church, a National Historic Landmark and World Heritage church. Built between 1772 and 1816, the church is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday, except for two weeks each spring when the exterior is replastered with mud by parishioners and other volunteers. With its four-foot-thick adobe walls and dramatic buttresses, it is among the most photographed churches in the United States.
The church is located in the Ranchos de Taos Plaza, which is also home to shops and galleries, including Two Graces, an intriguing mix of collectibles and original art. Browsing through items both curated and created by owner Robert Cafazzo is like revisiting childhood. Two Graces is open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. each day.
Four miles north of Ranchos and in the heart of the historic district is Taos Plaza. While the Plaza has the requisite T-shirt and souvenir shops, one of our favorite galleries is Acuarelas Studio Gallery (125 North Taos Plaza). It is open every day, although hours vary. Gallery owner and featured artist Leandro Martin Rodriguez works primarily in watercolor (which is what acuarelas means), achieving an infinite palette of subtle colors by hand-mixing the primary colors of red, blue, and yellow. His gallery includes a variety of work by other artists as well, from sculptures to pots to jewelry and more.
The Courtyard of the Blumenschein Museum
From the Plaza, you can walk a short distance to Ledoux Street, which is home to several don’t-miss stops for art lovers:
• The E. L. Blumenschein Home and Museum, a National Historic Landmark, which offers a collection of work by one of the artists who was fundamental in establishing Taos as an art colony. The Blumenschein Home’s hours vary, please see their website to plan your visit.
• R. C. Gorman’s Navajo Gallery, which includes the artist’s original drawings, lithographs, and bronzes. Days and hours of operation vary.
• The Harwood Museum of Art, open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, closed on Monday. The Harwood’s impressive collection includes works by Agnes Martin, Andrew Dasburg, Patrociño Barela, and members of the Taos Society of Artists, including Blumenschein, Oscar E. Berninghaus, E. Irving Couse, W. Herbert “Buck” Dunton, Joseph Sharp, and Victor Higgins.
A Colorful Mural on Ledoux Street
Ready for lunch? Near Ledoux Street is Antonio’s (122 Doña Luz, one block west of the Plaza), which offers both traditional and innovative dishes from Old Mexico; we love the guacamole made tableside, the ceviche (fresh fish in lime juice), and the chile relleno en nogada, a twist on the classic relleno. In the mood for crispy fish and chips or a juicy burger? Head to the Alley Cantina (121 Teresina Lane, behind the north side of the Plaza), located in what is reputed to be the oldest building in Taos. Or have a sandwich and a bowl of green chile at Bent St. Café & Deli, which is at the north end of the John Dunn Shops, less than a block north of Taos Plaza.
After lunch, browse the John Dunn Shops (Moby Dickens Bookshop at 124A Bent Street, right across from the Café & Deli, is a must-visit stop for booklovers) and stroll up and down Bent Street, which offers an eclectic assortment of—you guessed it—galleries and shops. Despite a bend in the road, Bent Street is actually named for one-time New Mexico governor Charles Bent; his former home, at 117 Bent Street, is now a museum. More historic trivia: Bent was the brother-in-law of frontiersman Kit Carson, whose own former home, at 228 Kit Carson Road, is also a museum.
Bent Street in Toas
While both the Governor Bent and Kit Carson museums give visitors a glimpse into the past, we recommend that you save them for next time and instead visit Taos Pueblo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a National Historic Landmark. Typically, the Pueblo is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 8:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, although from late winter to early spring it is closed for about 10 weeks, and occasional tribal ceremonies may necessitate an unscheduled closing.
The adobe structures in the Pueblo village were constructed between 1000 and 1450 C.E. and are the oldest continuously inhabited buildings in the U.S. These buildings comprise not only homes, but also shops exhibiting traditional and contemporary arts and crafts of Pueblo residents. In addition to art and jewelry, you may purchase oven bread, baked in the traditional beehive ovens called hornos, or another Taos Pueblo specialty, prune pies, from one of the village vendors.
The San Geronimo Church, near the visitor’s entrance, was completed in 1850. Near it are the ruins of the original San Geronimo Church, which was built in 1619 and destroyed in the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, when eight of New Mexico’s 19 pueblos rebelled against Spanish colonization. The revolt was temporarily successful, but in 1692, Spain repossessed the land.
Taos Pueblo welcomes visitors, and with some exceptions, photographs are allowed, although you must pay a fee for each camera you bring into the village, no photography is allowed in the church, and you must ask permission to take pictures of tribal members. Note, too, that the river that divides the north and south “houses” of the village is the source of residents’ drinking water, as the village has no running water or electricity. Do not that Taos Pueblo will be closed for Traditional activities starting February 7, 2011 through approximately March 28, 2011; please contact the Tourism Office at the Pueblo if you have any questions.
A short drive north of Taos Pueblo is the Millicent Rogers Museum (1504 Millicent Rogers Road), which has a priceless collection of assembled by Millicent Rogers, heiress to the Standard Oil fortune. With a legendary sense of style and a sharp mind, she amassed Native American jewelry, pottery, and religious iconography; Spanish Colonial folk art; and textiles from both Native American and Spanish Colonial traditions, all on display along with original jewelry designs by Rogers herself. Among Rogers’ many notable achievements was her commitment to the classification of Native American art as “historic,” which conveyed both status and protection. The museum is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., although it is closed on Mondays from November through the end of March.
As you pass through Taos’s historic district on the way back to Santa Fe, you may want to stop for drinks and pub fare at the Adobe Bar. Located in the Taos Inn (125 Paseo del Pueblo Norte), the Adobe Bar is known as the living room of Taos and is popular among both locals and visitors. The margaritas are cold, and the nachos are hot and plentiful. The Taos Inn has a fine dining restaurant, too, Doc Martin’s, which, in the late 1800s, was home to Dr. Thomas Paul (Doc) Martin, who discovered the headless body of ruthless land grabber Arthur Manby—but that story will have to wait for your next visit to Taos! See you then!
Thank you, Susan! We’ll look for you when we head up north!
Susan Mihalic, our Taos Expert