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A Town Named Taos: Enchantment of the Land

The New Mexican town revels in Native American, Mexican, Spanish and creative mystique

By Teresa Dovalpage
Published on LatinoLA: August 1, 2011

A Town Named Taos: Enchantment of the Land

The Sangre de Cristo Mountains encircle Taos in a magic ring of protection. Wheeler Peak, like a towering giant, watches over it. The three rivers (Fernando, Lucero and Pueblo) bring life to its perpetually thirsty desert land.

Taos has been wrapped in an aura of mysterious, Southwest-meets-New Age spirituality for a long time. Since the moment it was "discovered" by Bert G. Phillips and Ernest L. Blumenschein in 1898 (when the two artists stopped here to fix a broken wagon wheel), Taos has been attracting the attention of people all over the world, particularly the creative types. D.H. Lawrence was among Taos's most renowned residents, as well as Aldous Huxley, Carl Jung and Georgia O'Keeffe.

"But the history of Taos didn't begin with Phillips, Blumenschein and the artistic colony that was established afterwards," says Maria Tafoya, an eight-generation Taose??a. "It might have been then when strangers heard about it, but Taos had been reveling in its own Native American, Mexican and Spanish mystique long before that."

The Taos Pueblo Indians have lived and worshipped in the valley since 1300 AD. Today, among the main attractions of Taos are the Christmas Eve and New Year ceremonies that take place in Taos Pueblo every year and that include prayers and ceremonial dances.

But what does the Taos mystique consist of? What makes the town so special?

The magic

"Taos has always felt to me like the threshold to a magical world," said writer, translator and UNM professor Mirabai Starr. "Living here, you can step back and forth between something resembling mainstream America and some other place, where spirits are as real as bodies, where the quality of the air we breathe and the light as it changes throughout the day are imbued with the sacred. I felt it as a child, and even with all the changes since the 70s, I still experience it now. I have tried to live in other places, but I always come back home to this holy place."

The energy

For other people, it's all about the energy. "I came to Taos in 2005 to be the writer-in-residence at the Harwood Museum of Art, and by the end of my three-month residency I realized that Taos had precisely the energy I had been seeking for a long time," said documentary producer-writer, journalist, editor and author Diana Rico, who returned to Taos with two more residencies at the Wurlitzer Foundation, and then relocated here permanently. "The first year I lived in Taos, I felt like my entire nervous system was being rewired. After that, I dropped into some deeper place, from which ancient emotional, physical and spiritual debris, patterns and blockages were thrust up to the surface to be seen, felt, examined and healed."

But this place is not for the faint hearted, Rico warned. "I do believe the energy of Taos does that to people who are seeking this kind of deep internal change--I have seen it in many of my friends here as well as in myself. It is a tough road to be on, but the result is that I am now living from a much more authentic and clarified place in my heart and soul, and I continue to grow in profound ways daily."

Diana Rico is the former curator of the SOMOS Writers Series and she is now on the board of directors of the SAGE Institute for Environment, Creativity and Consciousness.
The land

"For me, the beauty of Taos resides in its powerful, exceptional scenery," said painter and photographer Trevi Santiago, who currently lives in Vermont. "I can understand why New Mexico is called the Land of Enchantment--its expansive skies and red and golden sunsets, the acequias, the double rainbow over the Rio Grande, the howling if a distant coyote in the middle of the night I come here every spring to hear the Taos hum, which is actually the song of the mountain. It isn't hard to get inspired in such a glorious setting. And I love the food, too. The blue-corn enchiladas and the chile relleno are the best!"

The Legacy

"Taos has a rich artistic legacy," said Jean Stevens, another California native and now an Art History instructor and screenwriter. "Like a woven, creative fabric it has nurtured stellar writers, diverse performing artists, and visual artists of every stripe and persuasion."

The psychic connection

Taos's thriving community of metaphysical practitioners and believers makes it the logical choice to host the 2011 Paranormal Symposium, presented by Alliance Studying Paranormal Experiences (ASPE), said Janet Sailor, ASPE founder and president. The two previous symposiums were held in Angel Fire but this year it will take place in Taos from October 25th to 30th. "We couldn't have found a better place," said Sailor.

The freedom

"Taos tolerates freedom of expression, through painting or writing, weaving or gardening," said writer Hannah Rappaport. "People here are creative beings living by the call and teachings of their individual lives. You can meet someone once in a tea house or a passing encounter and have a conversation about angels and inner voices, spirit callings, creative impulses, and you both understand because you speak that language. Living in a community with like-minded people is a life raft where the conversation is one of spirit, of love, and of the vastness of nature's power and beauty."

Whatever "it" is, Taos has it. Listen to its hum, walk barefoot around the acequias, enjoy its unique magic, recharge your batteries with its vibrant energy or find out about UFO landings... Taos mystic, powerful aura permeates everything, from the soil to the sky, embracing everyone who lives here or even passes by.

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About Teresa Dovalpage:
Teresa Dovalpage is the author of the English-language novel novels A Girl like Che Guevara (Soho Press, 2004) and Habanera, A Portrait of a Cuban Family (Floricanto Press, 2010). She has also written and published three Spanish language novels.
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