Nancy's Travelblogue

... there isn't a train I wouldn't take, no matter where it's going. -- Edna St. Vincent Millay

Location: California, United States

Sunday, July 03, 2005


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Every Thursday evening Taosenos gather in the Plaza to hang out, socialize and listen to the free concerts of mostly local musicians. More than any other Taos event, this is the occasion where everybody mixes -- the old, the young, the tourists, the old-time Spanish speakers, the Anglos, the rich artists, the poor artists, the rich retirees, and everybody in-between. It was my first Taos "social event" a few weeks ago and the first time I saw so many locals socializing.

The Taos Plaza has a VERY long history, but I'll start with the first known European and go backwards at another time. Hernan Alvarado arrived here in 1540 as part of the Coronado expedition. Imagine!! Spanish colonists began to settle in the valley as early as 1615, but the real colonization began in 1796 when Don Fernando brought 63 families to settle on his Land Grant. This period was when the village of Taos was established and the Plaza soon became a political and trading center for the entire area.

I'm leaving out a lot of history, especially about the Native people, but I'll say more another time. But to digress on two points: Taos is supposed to have gotten its name from the Tewa (the local language) Indian word towih, meaning " red willow." Another interesting point is I heard that Taos Plaza was something of a slave trading center, both among the Spaniards and the Indians before them. But I have to verify that.

Back to the Plaza. It was originally built as a defense against invading Indians, as well as a way of keeping in livestock. They say part of the original wall still exists over on LeDoux Street. The businesses surrounding the Plaza served all the needs of a rough and tumble western town -- courthouse, jail, salons, hotels, and a customs house for incoming goods.

Beginning in 1893 artists arrived from the East Coast (and later from around the world), and the Taos Artists Society was active the the early 20th century. Some lived very near the Plaza and brought their own character to the place. The prize business location today is La Fonda Hotel. But that is another story ...


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