An insider’s perspective on Taos

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“New Mexico is like the only foreign country in the United States,” says Angelisa Murray, founder of a local travel agency. Heritage inspired. She means it in the best possible way. She has returned to the charming upstate town of Taos, where she spent her childhood summers, after an international career working for Four Seasons, Backroads and Butterfield & Robinson.

Today, Heritage Inspirations is one of the few truly upscale, meaningful, authentic, and sustainability-conscious travel companies operating in the United States, and she says she couldn’t imagine doing what she does. in another state.

As a native of New Mexico, I understand what she is talking about. I grew up on a green chili diet (we always spell it with an E) and an upbringing on the three cultures that have lived together for so long in New Mexico: the Pueblo people who originated from the land, the arrived Spaniards who ended up making the area part of their colony of Mexico and northern Europeans who came later.

History lessons in the 1990s left out the ugly parts. And while serious accounts with these parties are underway in all cultural institutions in the city, Taos seems poised to embody this ideal of coexistence. As a historical center of trade between different peoples, it has long been accustomed to foreigners from outside. In recent years, the people of Taos Pueblo have been more successful in retaining and reclaiming their lands and traditions than many other indigenous groups.

These lands and traditions are definitely worth a visit. That’s why Murray takes his Heritage Inspirations guests to the Taos Pueblo, not only one of the longest-inhabited places in North America, but also an amazing geometry of adobe houses, with wooden exterior ladders and a luminosity which takes an extra life in the morning. of autumn snow, then slips into the background.

Small-group tours are led by people like Ilona Spruce, a Pueblo woman who lives locally and sees tourism as a positive force for education. (And not just for foreigners visiting the place – many native tour guides use their tips to pay for their tuition.)

Outside the pueblo, contemporary Taos is New Mexico at its most lyrical: the piercing blue sky, the weathered adobe walls, the almost sparkling amber color of the poplar leaves in autumn. It is a city with a charming square, side streets and welcoming courtyards. If you just want to have a breakfast burrito and a chilli hot chocolate (E again, please), this is the place for you.

It also has a thriving, but human-sized art and gallery scene, and locals who say things like, “What Taos has is what Santa Fe has lost. We always love funk” and “The charm of Taos is that it doesn’t reveal itself in a few hours. You need a few days.

A good basis for these days is Monte Sagrado, which has about 75 rooms, suites, and casitas in a variety of styles, some with hot tubs and private courtyards, and a few inspired by notable Native Americans. They are all spacious and beautiful, with fireplaces and works by local artists. At De La Terra restaurant, executive chef Cristina Martinez has crafted a menu that spans nicely over dishes like seared local rainbow trout with green curry broth and carrot-kimchi salad, and rellenos wild mushroom quinoa (stuffed red peppers) with taupe verde and Oaxaca cheese.

The hotel is also the base from which Heritage Inspiration organizes a variety of tours in the city and surrounding mountains. A good introduction to the city is the Craft walking tourwhich includes the Taos-born artist by Maye Torres contemporary art gallery on the square, showcase of traditional weaving Tres Estellasthe concept store of socialite jeweler Moriah Stanton MoMothe colorful contemporary art gallery and bookstore called Jones Walker and the crowd pleasing at the artisanal chocolate factory Chocolate. (My guide pulled out another one-liner: “New Mexico is a counterculture, from the Pueblo Revolt at Meow Wolf,” referencing Santa Fe’s pioneering immersive art experience. “There has always been a lot of anticipation here.”)

A must-have is the Couse-Sharp Historic Sitewhich was the headquarters of the Taos Society of Artists, a group of East Coast painters who arrived in the town about a century ago, at a time when the local community was “strangely open to Europeans in woolen suits and bow ties “, in the colorful words of executive director and curator Davison Packard Koenig, who usually leads the tours.

The centerpiece is the house where Eanger Irving Couse made his home and studio in Taos. It became important to work with Pueblo models (and then pay well), portraying the natives as humans rather than savages, which was revolutionary at the time.

“Our story is not beautiful,” admits Koenig. “But our story is authenticity.” And he is careful to point out that “what the Taos Society accomplished was one of the first steps towards a society where more people were seen and appreciated.”

And Couse-Sharp’s story certainly gets more interesting when she travels to the lab and machine shop that were added by Eanger’s son, Kibbey. The place is like a time capsule. His main project was to develop a prototype mobile machine shop for repairing agricultural equipment in the United States in the 1920s and 1930s.

Military commanders saw the potential of the machines, and soon they were deployed around the battlefields of World War II. Today, one of the few to have survived it all sits just outside on the terrace next to the library. The old engineering nerd in me was thrilled.

A few streets away, the Harwood Art Museum (one of the oldest museums in New Mexico), has also focused on connection and legacy for over 100 years. The museum’s current exhibit focuses on black cowboys – who, it seems, made up more than a quarter of the riding force for decades – with a collection of archival photos and some contemporary responses to the lore , to history and to all the oversights.

Again, it’s complicated, but it’s also an appreciation, and a beautiful one at that.

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