There are two ways to drive from Santa Fe to Taos: up the Rio Grande gorge or along the high road, through the hills and forests. We chose the latter route. We passed many cemeteries in which almost every grave was decorated with bright artificial flowers and ribbons. In one small old town the original fortifications still stand - a windowless adobe wall faces out, but facing the inner courtyard is a succession of windows and doors. An adobe building called a morada was also in this town. It was (is?) the church of the Penitente faith, which was driven underground by Bishop Lamy. Penitente churches removed their bell towers to become inconspicuous but kept their services. Martinez Hacienda entrance
The art colony has extended all along this road, it seems. Weaving studios and art galleries pop up in unexpected places, at the outskirts of a village or in a small cabin between two farms. And of course the art colony flourishes in Taos, where it was established before Santa Fe. The story is that two famous photographers were traveling through New Mexico when the axle on their wagon broke, near Taos. After spending a few days waiting for repairs, they decided they liked the area so well that they gave up their original plans and took root in Taos, sending word to friends to come visit. The rest is Art Movement History.
We stopped at the Martinez Hacienda, where the volunteer docent welcomed us and shared some of her memories of life in a similar hacienda when she was a child. The building itself is identical in plan to haciendas in Texas and California, with rooms opening onto an inner courtyard. We were interested to see a half-dozen or so large looms, where blankets and rugs were being woven. Demonstrations and classes are held in the hacienda, not only in weaving but blacksmithing, woodwork, and other crafts.
One exhibit which particularly caught our attention was an explanation of the Indian slave trade. Slaves were often taken from one Indian tribe by another during a raid. Then a monthly market was held in Taos, at which enslaved Indians were sold or ransomed by family members. Many of the slaves ended up in Mexico, where they were cruelly treated. This slave trade continued, with the blessing of the Spanish Government, the Mexican Government, and the U.S. Government until just shortly before the Civil War. Mabel Dodge Luhan house
After a tasty lunch at the Apple Tree Inn near the Plaza, we visited the Kit Carson House. Carson came west at 17 and became a classic mountain man, who explored much of the west from the Rockies to the Sierras, and learned how to survive in the wilderness and among the Indians, hunting and trapping. He served as guide for John C. Fremont (fortunately for the latter) and for the U.S. Army, and was made into a living legend by the western writers. His wife and children lived in Taos, as did he after he settled down around age 40. Most of Carson's own possessions were sold to pay debts when he died, but the house was restored and furnished in period style by his fellow Masons. The Carson Home and the Martinez hacienda were grouped together on one discount admission ticket!
It was pleasant to walk about the plaza area, past galleries and souvenir shops. In Santa Fe and Taos, holiday greenery decorates everything that doesn't move, with garlands draped around shop pillars and twining up monuments. Luminarias are in place - in true high-tech fashion, they are now small electric light bulbs inside plastic "paper bags" (since all of these are apparently supplied by the same company, each bag is set exactly the same distance from its neighbor, so that the overall impression is more industrial than creative).
To finish our sightseeing day, our friend Austin drove us first to the Mabel Dodge Luhan house, in the outskirts of town. Luhan was a wealthy and willful hostess, attracting all sorts of artists and writers, including Georgia O'Keeffe, Mary Austin, Robinson Jeffers, Ansel Adams, and, of course, D. H. and Frieda Lawrence. These days, the house is used as a beautiful and affordable inn. It is maintained just as it must have looked in the 1920s, with large soft chairs and sofas, heavy wooden tables, an inviting and comfortable retreat. We decided it would be a great treat to spend a night or two in one of the suites, especially now that Mabel is long dead and not able to boss her guests around. From outside, we could see the bathroom windows which D. H. Lawrence had painted badly. D. H. Lawrence memorial
It was getting late, but Austin took us north of town to the ranch given to D. H. Lawrence by Mabel Luhan, and now used by the University of New Mexico as a conference and retreat center. Lawrence died and was buried in France, and Frieda, his widow, had his body exhumed and cremated and the ashes returned to the ranch for burial; although she married again, Frieda is buried next to the memorial. The guest book is full of gushing comments from adoring fans, and the certificates from the French officials are posted in a glass case on the wall.
The story is told that Frieda, Dorothy Brett and Mabel Luhan, who had all competed for his attention while he was alive, drove down together to Santa Fe to receive the package from France. Brett and Luhan wanted to scatter Lawrence's ashes over the hills, while Frieda wanted them buried. Bickering and arguing, they drank their way from bar to bar, and when they reached Taos the box of ashes was gone. After recovering the box of ashes, and fearing that the others would not shrink from digging it up again if she just buried it, Frieda made up a batch of cement, dumped the ashes into it, stirred it, and announced that she had made her point.
D. H. Lawrence would probably not have been as big a name in literature if his books weren't banned; his prose is somewhat pretentious. But he became famous and was in touch with many Big Names in the world of art and literature at the time.
Austin returned to Santa Fe, while we spent the night in Taos, ready to head back East to the Great Plains.