Taos is a small town in New Mexico with a big claim to fame as the longest continuously-occupied settlement in North America. Aside from that unique distinction, Taos has made itself a cultural center, historic landmark, and adventure destination that is well worth a trip. Take some time to discover Taos and plan your trip around this unique desert location.
History of Taos
Taos has a long and exciting history that began a millennium ago. The first pit houses in the Taos Puebla were constructed around 1000 AD. Evidence that the Pueblo people were also creating ceremonial structures, known as kivas, and pottery has also been uncovered during this time period. About 100 years later, the first multiple-story adobe buildings were completed in the region.
Life continued for the Pueblo inhabitants much in the same way for centuries until Hernando de Alvardo found his way to the Taos Valley. The modern location of Taos was founded around 1615 after the Spanish declared their conquest of the Pueblo villages complete.
Relations with the Taos Pueblo people were genial to begin with but soon turned contentious, resulting in an extended period of conflict between the two groups. A revolt in 1640 drove the Spanish settlers out of the region.
The settlers returned in 1661, only to be driven out again in 1680 by the unification of the Pueblo people. The Pueblo people continued to resist the Spanish successfully until 1696 when Don Diego de Vargas resettled the region.
Modern History of Taos
The region developed in relative calm over the next century and became a hub for beaver trappers in the beginning decades of the 1800s. The Taos Valley was ceded to the United States in 1847 after the Mexican American War. This incited the Taos Revolt by a coalition of the Mexican and Puebloan inhabitants. During this revolution, the United States Governor of the region, Charles Bent, was killed.
New Mexico became the 47th state of the Union in 1912, and 18 years later the town of Taos became incorporated.
The site of Taos Pueblo is the feature that makes Taos one of the longest continually-occupied settlements in the world. Around 150 individuals live in the UNESCO World Heritage Site year-round. The Taos Pueblo maintains many of the architectural features that it has possessed for centuries, and it is the biggest Pueblo structure in existence today, with some sections reaching six stories high. It has also been called one of the most photographed structures in the United States.
Taos itself has many excellent diversions that you can enjoy the next time you pass through the area. It is a great place to visit during the winter, as it sits beneath Wheeler Pass, the tallest mountain roadway in New Mexico, and has four nearby ski resorts. In warmer months you can enjoy horseback riding, llama trekking, fly fishing, rafting, and even hot air-ballooning over the nearby desert terrain.
The town itself is home to many historic sites, such as the Our Lady Guadalupe Church, built in 1801, and the Governor Charles Bent House, site of the violent Taos Revolt 150 years ago.
South of the town, you can visit the San Francisco de Asis Mission Church, a National Historic Landmark constructed between 1772 and 1816. The church is a part of the Ranchos de Taos Plaza, an 84-acre historic district that was once the site of over 300 homes enclosed by a fortified plaza built in the 1770s.
Taos may be an unassuming destination in the New Mexican desert but can certainly be a rewarding one for a traveler willing to seek out the many hidden opportunities waiting to be discovered.