One of the more important places to visit while in Taos is the Pueblo just north of town, the home of the Tiwa tribe. It is one of 8 in northern New Mexico, and most would say the most impressive. I sure would.
Set at the foot of Taos Mountain, with the picturesque Rio Pueblo running through it, the Pueblo or village as the Indians call it is the longest continuously lived in residence in the United States. Those same structures of mud and straw have been here for more than 1,000 years. Interestingly, at least to me, these Native Americans call themselves Indians so that is how they are known locally.
The Tiwas maintain their traditions and customs of the world as it used to be while they live in the world of the internet and a global economy. They allow those of us who care to watch their practices to do just that; but they are not performing. If no one came to see them they would still do their dances and have their festivals. It is the way they live.
While most of the Indians live in homes set about the land, families do continue to live in the original pueblo or village despite the fact that there is no electricity or running water. I don’t really know what that commitment is but it does allow one a sense of life as it was – when real estate was land.
Among the most spectacular of their customs takes place on Christmas Eve. Then, when the sun has set, huge pyres are lit throughout the village. While plumes of black smoke drift skyward a procession begins from the church and winds its ways through the throngs that have gathered to watch. Huddled around those fires, those watching get to view a tradition that has been followed for centuries. In different years they perform different dances, many involving elaborate masks or costumes. This is an event that has to be seen to be appreciated but once you’ve been there you will want to go back again and again. I went for 17 straight winters which may be some sort of record.
Dances follow on Christmas Day and New Years Day, regardless of conditions. Men go shirtless even when the temperatures reach zero but they don’t seem to mind. I don’t know how they do it. I just know that I have been there with everything on I own and these fellows are in loin clothes. Amazing.
Another fun event takes place on September 30th each year. Known as the Feast of San Geronimo, Indians will host friends and family for food and drink all day. The hosts will not sit and eat with their guests but honor them by servicing them and providing for them. Meanwhile, in the village, one or more of the younger men will try and climb a 50 foot pole to get the lamb and other goodies waiting at the top for he who can get to them. The drama of the climb can be exciting. Scary, actually and while I haven’t seen any one fall I am told he does happen.
While there are special events, every day is a good day to visit the Taos Pueblo. Just be prepared to pay for admission and for the use of a camera. Custom dictates that one doesn’t take a picture of a person without getting permission so please respect that. You will find the folks there very accommodating but they do want to be respected. Which makes sense to me.
If you get smitten by the Pueblo or anything else in this town, and decide to look at buying Taos real estate, just remember to call us at harvey & associates. We are here to help.
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