Bent Street was one of the early residential streets in Taos.
Named after Charles Bent, New Mexico’s first territorial Governor, who lived and died on this street.It is also the site of the house of Long John Dunn, gambler and stage-coach driver.
As we strolled down this street over the past few Wednesdays, I’ve told a few stories about Bent Street’s history, and the man it is named for.
Although his office was in Santa Fe, Bent maintained his residence and a trading post in Taos, New Mexico Territory, in what is present-day New Mexico. On January 19, 1847, Bent was scalped and killed by Pueblo warriors, during the Taos Revolt, not to be confused with the Pueblo Revolt, which was the largest and most successful Native American uprising in North American history.
The Spaniards had arrived in the Americas fresh from their Reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula (780 years between the Umayyad conquest of Hispania in 711 and the fall of the Nasrid kingdom of Granada), to the expanding Christian kingdoms in 1492, and had tried to force the Native Peoples to convert to Christianity as they had done to the Moors and Jews. The Pueblo Revolt of 1680—also known as Popé’s Rebellion—was an uprising of most of the indigenous Pueblo people against the Spanish colonizers in the province of Santa Fe de Nuevo Mexico, present day New Mexico. The Pueblo Revolt killed 400 Spaniards and drove the remaining 2,000 settlers out of the province.
The Taos Revolt was a popular insurrection by Hispano and Pueblo allies against the United States’ occupation of present-day northern New Mexico during the Mexican–American War. The Mexican–American War began in 1846, when Stephen W. Kearny led 1,700 American troops into Santa Fe without encountering any resistance.
Before the invasion, in Taos, Padre Martínez had witnessed the animosity towards Native Americans and Mexicans displayed by the Anglos living in New Mexico. He encouraged his students to study law and it was to them he delivered his famous quote, “The American government resembles a burro; but on this burro lawyers will ride, not priests.”
Within a year of the American occupation, the Taos Revolt occurred. Charles Bent, the newly appointed American governor of New Mexico, was assassinated during the uprising.
American forces quickly regained power, instituted martial law, and executed the rebels involved. Many, including Kit Carson, believed Martínez himself took part in some way in instigating the rebellion, but nothing has ever been proven.
In a letter to a friend in Santa Fe, Martínez commented that he thought the American reprisals were too harsh and would hinder future relations between New Mexico and its new rulers, but despite this, he was able to adjust to the administration and for the following seven years, he would play a dominant role in the legislative sessions of the new Territory.
With the new government came new leadership, both political and religious. Jean Baptiste Lamy, a Frenchman nearly 21 years younger than Martínez, became the vicar apostolic of Santa Fe in 1851. Martínez supported Lamy until January 1854 when Lamy issued a letter instituting mandatory tithing and decreeing that heads of families that failed to tithe be denied the sacraments.
Martínez publicly protested the letter and openly contested it in the secular press. From then on, Lamy and Martínez clashed over many issues, such as the effects of frontier life on Catholic standards, and women’s issues. The two also argued over interpretations of canon law. The situation worsened when Lamy wrote a letter explaining that he felt New Mexicans faced a problematic future because they didn’t have “the intellectual liveliness of Americans”, and that “their morals were primitive.
These comments outraged northern New Mexicans, causing the clergy of New Mexico to write a letter directly to the Pope, expressing their concern about Lamy. Martínez was not involved in the letter but continued to write communiques criticizing Lamy for the Santa Fe Gazette.
Death Comes for the Archbishop is a 1927 highly acclaimed, novel by American author Willa Cather. It concerns the attempts of a Catholic bishop and a priest to establish a diocese in New Mexico Territory. Cather it is said, completed the book here in Taos, while staying in the “pink house” Mabel Dodge built for D.H. Lawrence.
Those days are long behind us now, and although Taos remains rooted in old tradition, more of a live and let live philosophy prevails. Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims and Jews all co-exist here now together with Hispano Catholics and the Red Willow People who still honor their ancient ways.
At the other end of Bent Street where many artists once lived and painted in the studio/living spaces they occupied, beyond the courtyard that once housed the coffee cart, past the old house that has long been a restaurant across from the odd corner”island”that leans toward the John Dunn Shops, Bent Street narrows as it winds its way to Placitas Road.
Here you’ll find three of the best galleries in Taos.
Approaching MoMo with its bright red 3D cube sign at the top of the path, you know you are in for something different.
At MoMo, owned by jeweler, Moriah Stanton (who has truly exquisite taste), you’ll find Fine Art, jewelry (her creations and others), pottery , textiles, unique accessories and sustainably made, very minimalist and refined clothing.
“Beautiful things for people with discerning tastes.” Moriah says.
The gallery focuses on mostly young, very hip and talented local artisans, MoMo is located in what once was the home of the artist, Rebecca Strand, Georgia O’Keeffe’s friend and rumoured lover.
Entering the Parsons Gallery, one feels as if one has taken a step back in time; the magical Taos light filters through the windows casting a golden glow on the traditional adobe walls, upon which hang Taos Masters, past and present.
Look no further for traditional historic Taos Art, authentic works with Provenance. The gallery also deals in Vintage Navajo weavings, WPA and Spanish Colonial furniture as well as Fine Art.
Owned and managed by Robert Parsons and Ashley Rolshoven, the gallery is located in the old Maxwell home in one of the most beautifully restored buildings on Bent Street.
Max Jones and Tony Walker (Jones Walker Gallery), came to Taos from Dallas a few years ago and moved into the old house most recently occupied by the Rancho Milagro Gallery who represented Jim Wagner. The house was built in 1768, making it one of the oldest on the street, and you can still find Wagner’s charming folksy paintings on these walls!
“We carry iconic art by Living Taos artists,” they told me, and the rooms are truly a treasure trove of discovery. Along with Wagner’s distinctive pieces, they represent artists working in many genres; from Modern Abstract Expressionists to Classic plein air landscape painters.
Pottery, weavings, art glass, textiles and Vintage home accents all serve to complement the bold and beautiful work they carry.
For more on all of these very special galleries, please visit the sites linked below.
Thank you for joining me on my walkabout in Taos. I’ll be back next Wednesday with another street and more stories!
For more on Bent Street and all of Downtown Taos, please visit Taos.org.
All images either stock files or taken on my iphone
2 thoughts on “Bent Street’s Other End”
Nice blog..! I really loved reading through this article. Thanks for sharing such an amazing post with us and keep blogging.
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