on April 1, 2008
Taos Pueblo is the oldest continuously inhabited pueblo in the U.S.. The Taos Indians have lived in this community for more than 1000 years. There is a $10 per person entrance fee plus an additional $5 for each camera you bring with you. The community consists of dirt roads and adobe homes. The most distinguishing feature of this neighborhood is the large cluster of homes stacked on one another. There are many dogs walking around. The residents don't keep them on leashes or behind fences. The dogs generally ignore the tourists.You are free to walk around the non-restricted areas on your own but we decided to take a guided walking tour of the pueblo first. There is no extra charge for this. Our tour began with the remains of the old San Geronimo Church built in 1619 by the Spanish who were on a mission to convert the Indians to Catholicism. During the U.S.-Mexico war in 1847, the U.S. government destroyed the church and the Indian men, women, and children inside because an Indian was suspected of killing the governor. The church now sits in ruins surrounded by a cemetery of simple wooden crosses. The burial site is not maintained because of the belief that the earth should reclaim all it has provided. Therefore, we noticed many toppled and/or broken wooden crosses in the cemetery. Despite the atrocities they suffered, the Indians still converted to Catholicism but kept some of their religious customs such as burial rituals. There is a newer San Geronimo Church in the community. The interesting thing about it is that an empty casket remains inside to acknowledge the Catholic method of burying the dead. The Taos Indians don't bury their dead in caskets. Instead, they wrap the body in a burial cloth and place it in the ground.These were just a few of the interesting facts we learned as our tour guide walked us around the various areas of the pueblo. Much of the community is closed to the public since people still live here. Some residents even choose to live in the traditional manner and still rely on the stream that runs through the pueblo as a water source. The tour only lasted twenty minutes. We tipped our guide, as we were reminded to do so several times during her presentation, and then went off to walk around. Many of the residents have converted their homes into souvenir shops where they sell their home-made jewelry, pottery, leather drums, and food. I enjoyed walking around Taos Pueblo and talking to the friendly merchants. The history and the culture of the community are so different from anything I’ve experienced on the east coast of the U.S. where I live. Allow at least an hour for a visit to Taos Pueblo. Keep in mind you’ll be walking on dirt roads, so dress appropriately. The occasional vehicle traffic produced clouds of dust while we were there. Also, pay attention to the rules of conduct in this community. It is not just a tourist attraction; it is still home to several hundred people.
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