People are intrigued by Taos NM. For some travelers, it’s a destination, for people visiting Santa Fe, it’s often a day-trip or even an overnight. We have been visiting and writing about Taos for years, seeing the sites that we’ve learned about from tourism sources, travel guides, magazine and newspaper articles and the Internet. On a recent visit to Taos we were fortunate to get a tour from a local who took us off the beaten path.
We started our tour at San Francisco de Asis, a church in Ranchos de Taos that has been memorialized by countless artists and photographers including Georgia O’Keeffe and Ansel Adams.
The plaza surrounding it is hundreds of years old and many of the original buildings are still standing. Actor/director Dennis Hopper, a resident of Ranchos de Taos for years (he’s also buried here), shot some of the scenes in his 1990 film Catchfire co-starring Jodie Foster here. If you want to learn about the Plaza’s history, stop into the Two Graces Gallery and chat with owner Robert Caffazo. He’s a wealth of knowledge.
Taos has many moradas. These were and are places of worship for the Penitente Brotherhood, a Catholic lay organization. The controversial sect believes in recreating the passion and death of Jesus. At one time they practiced self-flagellation. We visited a few on our Taos odyssey. The first one, close to town, can be seen from the former home of Mabel Dodge Luhan, one of the Remarkable Women of Taos being celebrated by the town this year. Luhan’s house guest Georgia O’Keeffe did a series of paintings of this black cross in 1929, her first summer in New Mexico. It also appears in D.H. Lawrence’s writings.
From the Morada, we walked a path on a right of way through land belonging to the Taos Pueblo. The Stations of the Cross are laid out along the way. At the end of the path is a second cross. The black cross, according to our guide, symbolizes Christ’s death and the one at the end of the path represents salvation through accepting Christ as your savior. When Dennis Hopper owned Luhan’s home in the 60s, he had both crosses restored and resurrected.
We visited another morada outside the Ranchos de Taos. Jesus Nazareno Cemetery, where Hopper is buried, is located directly behind the Penitente building. His simple grave mound is decked out with colorful tributes including empty liquor bottles. I bet he would have loved it.
We ended our day looking at petroglyphs adjacent to the Rio Pueblo de Taos. According to our guide, this is considered a sacred site by the Pueblo people. These rock carvings were a method of communication by tribal members as they had no written language.
If you want a Taos tour that takes you off the beaten path, contact The Santa Fe Traveler.