- Zsuzsanna C.
- Tuesday, December 21, 2021
The beautiful Rio Grande River en route to Taos, NM
In the summer of 2021, I traveled to some really interesting places. One of them was Taos, New Mexico, in the high desert. This is the only place with still inhabited pueblos. Taos now is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a National Historic Landmark. The ancient Taos people lived in the area between 1000-1450 CE in dwellings, some of which have been inhabited ever since continually, belonging to the Taos-speaking (Tiwa) Native American tribe of Puebloan people. We could see the sundried ancient pueblo walls only from the distance from the public highway. The walls were made from adobe (clay, straw and water). These dwellings don’t have electricity and running water. This made the current inhabitants more vulnerable to COVID19. The tribe leaders decided to close the pueblos to visitors. The roads are blocked at checkpoints where only residents can cross. The Puebloans grow beans, squash and corn, by using dry farming methods, which means collecting and conserving all the rainwater. They also use water from the little river that runs around the village.
We stopped at the touristy modern town center of Taos and admired the beautifully crafted earrings and necklaces in the various gift stores. Here you can buy the oldest form of jewelry from New Mexico, in a style predating the introduction of metals. Originally, they used drilled shells and ground them into beads. Nowadays turquois is used.
This was part of a day trip from Santa Fe and we originally wanted to include a visit to a natural hot spring. Unfortunately, they were all either closed, out of the way, or the water level was said to be too high at the time. As we crossed Santa Fe we saw beautiful Pueblo style neighborhoods.
We headed to Taos via the low road and returned via the high road. The low road followed the Rio Grande River for a while where we saw inviting camping areas and many people enjoying the river. It was a beautiful not too hot summer day under the New Mexican sun as the road narrowed in a sleepy remote rural area. The scenery turned dramatic when we crossed a narrow bridge and found ourselves on a steep dirt road climbing up the wall of the canyon that opened up in front of us. The hairpin turns on the very steep, rough road challenged the driver as starkly beautiful vistas opened onto rocky walls, slopes and the hidden valley in the gorge. There are two bridges over the gorge of which we crossed the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge back to the side where Taos is located. There are pedestrian walkways on the bridge that offer dramatic views of the river and the gorge, especially with the changing light as rain clouds passed.
I’ll never forget the San Francisco de Assisi Mission Church, a National Historic Landmark. The more than 200 years old sand colored church was surrounded by beautiful big red flowered marshmallows. The vivid color contrast was a nice sight. In the churchyard there is a sculpture of San Francisco de Assisi. Every year the parishioners and the community volunteer to re-plaster the church in adobe. That means mixing clay, sand, straw and water into thick mud. They apply one layer every year. This way the wall will become resilient against the weather. The church is located in the San Francisco Plaza, that is about four miles from Taos, NM. Originally, this was an old U-shape Spanish military garrison. Now they have trading posts, restaurants and a really nice gift shop surrounding the church. I wish I could’ve bought more Indian art. They were so beautiful. You can go into the church free, but if you want to see the “Shadow of the Cross” painted by Henry Ault, you had to pay a small admission. The painting created with clever artistry glows in the dark for a short while when the light is turned off. To preserve the painting, it is kept in a temperature-controlled place.