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Taos Pueblo
Posted by: HoboSylvain | 2013-09-18 17:29:47 | Taos, New Mexico, United States
Keywords: architecture, history
Taos Pueblo is the most ancient part of the large town of Taos, New Mexico. This settlement dates back to at least 1350 according to historians, a few centuries more based on the local history transmitted orally from generation to generation. That old city is still a living community with over 150 people using these antique adobe dwellings as houses. It's home of the Northern Tiwa native people, a sub-group of the large Pueblo people native american population living in the area.

This settlement is known as the oldest continuous living homes in the USA (I'd probably say venture and say North America). The peoples of the tribe live within the confines of the historical village, where electricity and running water are prohibited, but also around, in either adobe houses or more modern ones.

Established as a US National monument in 1960, the area became part of the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1992, due to the historical significance of the settlement and its remarkable preservation through the ages, due to the good management and protection of the native people. With the Blue Lake territory and adjacent lands gave back in 1970 by the US government to the native people (after it was taken away in 1942), the whole territory now covers about 100 000 acres (about 400 sq km). On it you find now only the historical settlement but also sacred lands, crop fields, pastures for animals they hunt, etc.

Even today people living within the historical adobe houses follow the ancestral traditions and live without electricity or running water. Some houses have a fireplace or a gas oven inside. Most still have an outdoor terracotta oven in which they often cook breads, pies, etc.  The traditions are still alive and the oral history still transmitted.  The language used by this tribe, the Tiwa is unwritten, so there are no written records.

The houses themselves are based on mud bricks mixed with hay, then dried until they're similar to rock. They're then piled up to form walls (which are about 2 feet thick at the bottom, and 1 foot on top). The wall is then plastered with the same kind of material used for the bricks. At least once a year, the outer layer of the plaster, cracked by the elements, is removed and a new layer is applied, to give back a smooth finish.

Originally, there were no doors on those houses, and the windows were limited to very small openings. This was necessary for the defence of the village against the attacks of other tribes. That way, the invaders were quite limited in what they could do in terms of damage to the houses, and the residents could better defend themselves. The access was usually through a small opening in the roof. Other similar openings were to gain access to other dwellings in the same complex. In the past century, with the calm between the tribes and the influence of the Europeans, the doors and windows were added. Some transformed their old roof access point into a skylight.

Speaking of the Europeans, the settlement was conquered by the Spanish and during Spanish ruling and its imposition of the Catholicism there were many rebellions of the Taos people to the new regime. Today, the remnants of the Spanish occupation are still visible. First, by the old church in the cemetery, which dates in part to early 17th century, the cultures in the fields and the fact that most native people do practice the Catholic rites, in addition to their native ones. The ceremonies now take place in the beautiful church in the central plaza of the village.

I really enjoyed my visit there, even if it was cloudy and not perfect for the pictures. I took the tour offered by a native student who explained me the history of the village and his people, answered my questions, etc. There's a fee to visit, a bit like for a national park, and the funds go to the native government managing the entire Taos native land territory.


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