Taos, New Mexico, got its name from a phrase in the indigenous Tiwa language meaning “place of the red willows.” In 1540, Spanish explorers searching for the fabled “Seven Cities of Gold” came upon Taos Pueblo, a cluster of adobe dwellings, some five stories tall, that have housed the Tiwa for more than 1,100 years and constitute the oldest continuously inhabited community in the United States. Following Spanish conquest, a settlement grew; the mission church of St. Francis of Assisi still stands. At first amicable, relations between the Spanish and Natives deteriorated, leading to a 1680 revolt and continuing tensions. Adobe fortifications erected at the town’s center in 1796 are now known as Taos Plaza. American acquisition of New Mexico in 1847 triggered another insurrection at Taos. The region achieved territorial status in 1850, with Taos becoming known as the home of western scout Kit Carson. At the turn of the 19th century the town’s blend of native pageantry and Spanish tradition began attracting artists and writers, including D.H. Lawrence, Willa Cather, and Georgia O’Keeffe. Taos remains a vibrant center of creative expression and cultural diversity (taosgov.com). —Deborah Archuleta-Moreno writes in Roswell, New Mexico.
This article appeared in the Winter 2023 issue of American History magazine.
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