Clearly Bent Street is steeped in history.
And although originally one of the earliest residential streets in town, trade and commerce have been a mainstay on Bent Street since the 18th century.
The valley of Taos has been home to the Tiwa-speaking Taos Indians since around 900 A.D., and in 1540 Taos was first discovered by Spanish Conquistadors during the Coronado expedition. In 1598 the Franciscan friar Fray Francisco de Zamora was assigned to the provinces of Picuris and Taos, with the intention of converting the Indians. But Fray Francisco left the colony three years later discouraged with his lack of success.
Relations between the Spaniards and the Taos people were stormy from the start, and there is no record of a mission church being successfully established at Taos until 1626 when Fray Tomás Carrasco is credited with having built “a good church of fine architecture,” dedicated to San Gerónimo de Taos. It lasted less than fifteen years; in 1640, the Taos people rebelled, killed the resident friar and several Spanish soldiers, and burned the church.
In the 1650s, Taos Pueblo allegedly and unsuccessfully attempted to instigate a revolt among the other Pueblos, and then in about 1660 they again burned their newly re-built church, having been virtually independent of Spanish influence for twenty years.
Taos Pueblo was deeply involved in the Pueblo Rebellion of 1680 which began with a vision the San Juan rebel leader, Popay had in a kiva at Taos Pueblo. They actively resisted the re-establishment of Spanish rule in the 1690s, not succumbing until 1696.
The 1770s saw a complete hiatus in the Hispanic settlement of the Taos valley and during this period the authorities in Santa Fe and in Mexico repeatedly expressed their displeasure with the dispersed pattern of settlement so popular throughout northern New Mexico, frowned upon because of its vulnerability to attack (as demonstrated by the situation in Taos) and because it allowed the colonists too much freedom from the supervision of the authorities. (See my post on the Crypto Jews of New Mexico.)
In 1772 Governor Pedro Fermín de Mendinueta strongly restated the government policy requiring that the settlers form defensive enclosed plazas as the centers of their communities, along the lines of the Indian Pueblos.
In 1779, the dispersed settlers took up residence away from the Pueblo. A large enclosed plaza was built on the Rio de las Trampas; it was, because of its sufficiency of water and fertile lands, the first community in the valley to be resettled after the hiatus of the 1770s. It was this plaza which became the center of the present town of Ranchos de Taos.
By the early eighteenth century Taos Pueblo had apparently resigned themselves to Spanish rule, and cooperated with the Hispanos in mutual defense from the attacks by nomadic Indians, particularly the Comanches and the Utes.
The French and Spaniards regularly reported the presence of a group known as the Padouca at the northeastern edge of New Mexico, often in the vicinity of the headwaters of the Arkansas River, not far from Taos.
Comanches apparently began to visit northern New Mexico during the late seventeenth century, mostly in the company of the Ute, whose long history of occupation northwest of Taos would have given them both an intimate knowledge of the landscape and established access to Pueblo trade networks.
It appears that the greater Taos area was clearly a key locus of “branding” for the Comanches at the start of the eighteenth century. The tribe’s early Horse herds were primarily obtained from this region. In fact, local Hispano oral traditions tell stories about how the initial Comanche herds were built up through raids on those early settlements in what is now Ranchos de Taos.
The tribe’s historic identity is inseparable from an equestrian lifestyle, and Taos was where the Comanches truly became “Comanches.”
Everyone who’s lived here long enough knows about Taos’ secret underground; a network of tunnels running underneath the Historic District. The majority of the buildings in the Historic District were built during the 1880s and the tunnels probably date from around the same time. One of the most prevalent theories is that they were used as shelters, to protect Taos residents from the Comanche raids.
The tunnels are particularly accessible from the shops that now line Dona Luz, on Guadalupe Plaza. The town of Taos known as Fernández de Taos was established in the late 1700s, but the license to build its church dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe was not granted until 1801. It gradually became the largest settlement in the Taos valley, because of its close proximity to the Pueblo.
With the establishment of the Mexican Republic in 1821, trade restrictions with the United States were relaxed and the Santa Fe Trail was opened to traders and trappers from the east. Taos soon became the center for the fur trade for the Southwest and Rocky Mountains, attracting many Anglo-American and French trappers and traders.
Pueblo unrest continued culminating in the murder of Governor Bent (at his home on Bent Street), in January of 1847.
The noted scout and guide Christopher (Kit) Carson who began his career as a trapper first came to Taos a year earlier, in 1826, eventually settling here and marrying Taoseña, Josefa Jaramillo. Charles Bent had married Josefa’s sister, Maria Ignacia Jaramillo in 1835.
The Remarkable Women Of Taos site (linked on my sidebar), has much more info about the two women and the men they married.
Taos Pueblo had long been a central point of trade between the Native populations along the Rio Grande River and their neighbors to the northwest, the Plains Tribes. The Pueblo hosted a trade fair each fall after the harvest, (San Geronimo Feast Day is an outgrowth of that), had impressed those early Spaniards who made contact with the ancient village. Eventually, trade routes would link Taos to the northernmost towns of New Spain and the cities of Mexico via the Camino Real.
Bent Street, then as now was a center for business and trade and today we continue our stroll along this picturesque street, steeped in history and lore.
Just next door to La Chiripada Winery’s in town location, is Best of Taos winner, FX18, a go-to destination for locals and visitors; it’s a gift givers paradise!
An eclectic melange featuring unique, contemporary jewelry, quirky and humorous books and cards, apparel and accessories made by independent artisans, fun socks and hosiery, vintage and re-sale clothing and shoes, children’s and baby clothes.
Housewares, kitchen ware, bar ware, bags and totes, wallets and handmade jewelry can be found here as well, along with journals so you can chronicle your travels through Taos! No stone has been left unturned by owner, Libby Macalister.
“We feature one of a kind gifts for all ages that will put a smile on your face,” she says, smiling.
See FX18’s site linked below this post.
At Dwellings Revisited, owner Cam Martin has collected an array of gifts and home wares that will keep you browsing for hours! Take your time; there are hidden treasures in all the nooks and crannies of these ancient walls.
Cam specializes in Folk Art from around the world,focusing on primitives and oddities which brings a magical touch to one’s shopping experience in this truly incredible shop that leaves one feeling as if one has fallen down a rabbit hole into a surreal Cabinet of Curiosities!
Don’t miss it when you visit Taos, and don’t forget about it, if you live here and need a truly unique gift. Large or small, here is where you’ll find it.
Dwellings do not have an online presence but they are located at 107 Bent Street and can be reached by phone at 575 758-3377. Please leave a message and your call will be returned ASAP.
The Underground (cleverly references both the aforementioned tunnels and the Counter Culture that once thrived in Taos), owned and run by British ex-pat Stuart Brown, is located in the building that once housed 101/2 the men’s shop owned by Sam Parks’ partner, Linda Hill, where I worked during my pregnancy with my daughter Genevieve back in 1981.
Once a residence to the same family that owned the space Sam’s Shop (next door), occupies, The Underground continues the men’s shop tradition albeit with a hipster twist.
Bringing a bit of Blighty to Taos, Stuart’s enclave specializes in a combination of iconic U.K. Brands (Doc Martins anyone?), Superdry and a limited production of bespoke clothing from Kardo.
From California, Stuart has sourced Kensington shirts and items from Rock And Soul. Fabulous T-shirts and unique accessories along with small gifts, make shopping for (and by), the man in your life, a breeze.
The Underground is my usual destination for gifts for my son and sons-in-law.
Although Stuart doesn’t know who the original owners of his little corner on Bent Street were, he’s quite happy to be the current occupant and has no intention of going anywhere anytime soon.
For more on The Underground, please check out his site linked below.
I’ll be back next Wednesday with more of the merchants and businesses that make Bent Street so unique.
Please visit Taos.org for more on Bent Street and beyond!
Featured photo thanks to Libby at FX18!
Photos of Stuart at The Underground and Dwellings Revisited taken on my iphone. All others stock files.