3,000 BC: A Sacred Land over many Centuries 

The Eternal Pueblo, Oil on Canvas

Permanent inhabitants first started farming in present-day Taos, New Mexico as early as 3,000 BC. Across the world, Egyptians were building the pyramids and city-states were forming in Mesopotamia. 

1540: The Legend of Cibola – The Seven Cities of Gold  

Europeans first visited the region now known as Toas in 1540. This original group of Spanish explorers where in search of the Seven Cities of Cibola, a metropolis believed to be built of pure gold. (If you’ve ever watched National Treasure, you may recall references to this mythic site.) 

The desire to track down the Seven Cities of Cibola was amplified when a franciscan priest announced the existence of these cities to Spanish colonial officers living in Mexico City. Excitement to track down these cities of gold spread rapidly, and once all preparations were in order, the Spanish sent their best men, chief among them legendary conquistador Francisco Vazquez de Coronado. Upon arriving at the projected location of Cibola (i.e. Taos), the Spanish explorers were shocked to uncover a modest pueblo community and returned home in debt, angrily calling the area a “cursed land” and a “broken country.” 

The Lost City of Cibola (Image credit: Pinterest)

1598: Laying the Groundwork for Civic and Spiritual Life 

However, Spanish interest in the area eventually returned. King Philip II of Spain tapped Juan de Oñate with a contract to colonize New Mexico. Oñate led a massive migration to the region in 1598 and in a mere 12 years built the Palace of the Governors, now the oldest public building in the United States. 

Both the Spanish colonists and Pueblo Indians of the area constructed missions across Northern New. Tension between two divergent ways of life reached a point of reckoning. The Pueblo Revolt of 1680 kickstarted a series of attacks on Spanish mission villages. Eventually, mission priests bent their Catholic ways to include a handful of Pueblo spiritual traditions, laying the groundwork for a unique spiritual identity within the town of Taos.

Governor’s Place Oil on Canvas 1940 (Photo Credit: Petroleum Museum)

1848: Becoming a US Territory 

Control over the territory of Toas rapidly changed hands in the 19th century. In 1821 Mexico won independence from Spain. However, the victorious Mexicans only owned key parts of present-day New Mexico for a mere 25 years. The United States soon won the rights to area upon winning the Mexcian-American War and signing the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848. 

Following this treaty, New Mexico land rights were in constant dispute. Nevertheless, the newly acquired New Mexican Territory’s population quickly expanded over the next 50 years as new settlers established ranches and farms for important local resources including sheeps wool, chillies, lentils, tobacco and melons. As time went on a strong-willed minority of residents of the New Mexican territory became increasingly adamant about statehood. Those in support of statehood went to great lengths to show their allegiance to the US government. In 1898, President McKiney ordered war support for the Spanish-American War of 1898 and New Mexicans volunteered themselves as soldiers in such strong numbers they became the largest contingent of Theodore Roosevelt’s Rough Riders.

Rough Rider’s in New Mexico (Photo Credit: PBS)

1894: Taos’ Founding Artists 

“In 1894 three American artists met in Paris at the Academie Julian. There began a series of events that soon altered the history of Taos, 5000 miles away. By 1915, six professional artists from the East had made Taos the focus of their work. After founding Taos Society of Artists that year, they began sending circuit exhibitions of their paintings across the country and exposing audiences to new cultures, new visions, and a new landscape.”

This put Taos ‘on the map’ as an art destination, making it one of the most important art colonies in America. It is today one of the oldest art colonies still in existence. Taos Society of Artists lasted until 1927, by which time there were 12 active members: Bert Phillips, Ernest Blumenschein, Eanger Irving Couse, Joseph Henry Sharp, Oscar Berninghaus, Herbert Dunton, Julius Rolshoven, Walter Ufter, Victor Higgins, Martin Hennings, Kenneth Adams, Catharine Critcher. “

1912: New Mexico finally Achieves Statehood

New Mexico was incorporated as the Union’s 47th state by president Taft on January 6th of 1912 — The same year Taft was re-elected for a second term. Granting New Mexico statehood was one of the president’s most notable accomplishments.

Taos Today

A place with a weird and whimsical sense of humor, but also with a deep sense of history.”

Wildsam

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