Taos morada at the base of Taos Mountain, New Mexico.
The cultural landscape of Southern Colorado and New Mexico reflects a Native and Spanish heritage going back hundreds of years. When Spanish explorer Coronado arrived in New Mexico in 1540 he found Native tribes living in adobe pueblos perched on high mountain plateaus. Conflict ensued causing tensions which reverberate to this day, as witnessed by the toppling of the obelisk monument in Santa Fe Plaza by Native American activists on Indigenous Peoples Day in October, 2020. Tensions generally have cooled over the centuries though, and intermarrying between the cultures has been extensive, resulting in the unique cultural landscape which makes a visit to Southern Colorado and New Mexico so special.
One of the first things visitors will notice when visiting the cultural landscape of the Hispanic Southwest is the adobe churches. Often the church is located in or near the central plaza. The plaza was the center of commerce and was usually surrounded by a high adobe wall to repeal attacks by Native American tribes such as the Comanche, Navajo, and Ute. These attacks lasted well into the late 1700s. The Spanish settlers took consolation in the Catholic faith, reflected in the beautiful adobe churches they built. Many of these churches remain today, such as the famous San Francisco de Asis Church in Taos, featured in several of artist Georgia O'Keeffe's paintings. Traveling on the High Road To Taos Scenic Byway visitors can also see wonderful adobe churches in Las Trampas, Truchas, and Chimayo. Much more information on these churches can be found in Mike Butler's book: https://www.amazon.com/High-Road-Taos-Images-America/dp/146711605X/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=High+Road+To+Taos&qid=1613238965&s=books&sr=1-1
The San Jose de Gracia church in Las Trampas was built between 1760 and 1776.
There are nineteen Native American pueblos scattered across northern and central New Mexico today: Acoma, Cochiti, Isleta, Jemez, Laguna, Nambe, Ohkay Owingeh, Picuris, Pojoaque, Sandia, San Felipe, San Ildefonso, Santa Ana, Santa Clara, Santo Domingo, Taos, Tesuque, Zuni and Zia. The pueblos range in size from quite large (Taos) to very small (Nambe & Picuris). Generally, the pueblos welcome visitors, but each has their own rules and traditions, so be sure to check on their websites for open dates. The conditions of the pueblos vary widely with Taos being very well-preserved, and others having only the remains of the original adobe buildings. In that wonderful admixture of cultural landscapes found in the Southwest, most pueblos have an adobe Catholic church in their plaza. An outstanding example is the church in San Ildefonso, and the church in Taos Pueblo which was built after the original adobe church was destroyed in the Taos Revolt of 1847.
Taos Pueblo rises at the base of Taos Mountain.
Across Southern Colorado and New Mexico excellent museums help preserve the cultural landscape of the past. From Francisco Fort in La Veta, CO to the Farm and Ranch Museum in Las Cruces, NM, https://www.nmfarmandranchmuseum.org/ there are wonderful museums to visit to explore the past. Taos offers the Millicent Rogers Museum with an excellent collection of Native American pottery and jewelry. Also in Taos, the Harwood Museum of Art preserves the famous paintings of the Taos Society of Artists as well as modernist paintings and sculpture. In Santa Fe, the Palace of the Governors and the New Mexico History Museum present the entire history of New Mexico. Cimarron offers the Philmont Museum which gives the history of the Boy Scouts and the Philmont Scout Ranch. This is just a small sample of the museums to visit to further your appreciation of the cultural landscape of the Southwest.
The Harwood Museum of Art in Taos.
Southern Colorado and New Mexico are simply an art lover's paradise. There are wonderful galleries in practically every town. Even a small town like historic La Veta, CO has several galleries to visit such as the La Veta Gallery on Main: https://www.lavetagalleryonmain.com/ Taos of course, is famous for its many art galleries including Wilder Nightingale and Parsons Fine Art, both on Kit Carson Road just east of the Plaza. Many days could be spent in Taos exploring the wide variety of galleries. Santa Fe also has some of the most famous galleries in the nation- in fact Santa Fe is the third largest art market in the nation, only behind New York City and Los Angeles. There are several art districts in Santa Fe, including the downtown plaza area and historic Canyon Road. Whether your preference is paintings, pottery jewelry, fiber arts, or sculpture, you will find a gallery to your taste in the Southwest.
With its colorful history, you would expect Southern Colorado and New Mexico to have their share of characters who have made their mark upon the cultural landscape. In Southern Colorado, writer Louis L'Amour wrote his geographically accurate western novels from his summer home near Durango. Also in Durango, historian Duane Smith has written over 50 books on the history of Durango and mining in Colorado. La Veta, CO produced rancher/author Gene Vories with his wonderful sense of humor and his western novels about Southern Colorado. In New Mexico, the Taos Society of Artists (Ernest Blumenschein, Victor Higgins, Oscar Berninghaus, E.I. Couse, Joseph Sharp, Herbert Dunton, Bert Phillips) came to Taos in the early 1900s and produced beautiful paintings of the area, which are highly sought by collectors today. Doyenne Mabel Dodge Luhan established a retreat in Taos drawing writers (D.H. Lawrence), painters (Georgia O'Keeffe), and photographers (Ansel Adams). This is just a sampling of the many characters found throughout the Southwest.
The setting for this Louis L'Amour book was Southern Colorado's Spanish Peaks region.
(The rest of our Cultural Landscape section is currently under construction. Please check back often, and come explore with us!)