The La Plaza Storyteller

Originally the Storyteller was at the bottom of the page in certain sections of the original La Plaza Website. The intent being to guide visitors through the site with links to other sections within the text. What we've done here is gather up all the Storyteller text and pictures and put them together on one page.

| About La Plaza | About Taos | Community Services | Education | Government | Employment |
Health | News and Weather | Food and Lodging | Arts and Literature | Home and Garden |

From About La Plaza
About La Plaza

"Mud. Everything is made of MUD!" I heard this comment a hundred times if I heard it once from tourists walking on the Taos Plaza. At the Taos Pueblo, these mud buildings have survived wars, fires, and floods since the 14th century. Not only the buildings but also the people have weathered much, including the influx of inquisitive tourists for more than a century. Taos has become a world-famous destination. And now it will be accessible via the Internet from around the world.
Just like the original Plaza, this electronic plaza has been built by the members of the community one digital adobe at a time. If you live in Taos, you know that it can sometimes difficult to get two people to agree on any subject. However, support for this project has been unprecedented. People from every sector of the community have given their time, their money, and their endless commitment to bring Taos into the next century.
If you ever laid adobes and mud you know it is not an easy task. There is a simple beauty and elegance that results, despite the mess while things are in progress. This new plaza is no different, it is unquestionably still under construction. You will have to jump over piles of mud and watch your head for flying adobes but plenty of good stuff is already online.

From About Taos
About Taos

Taos is special. I know, I have lived here for hundreds of years and that's why I can tell the stories I do. Before men walked these lands there was magic in the air. The "Ancient Ones" came because they knew there was something very special here: in the land, in the sky, and in the mountains. Since the early days Taos has been a magnet for artists, writers , Spanish, Native Americans, and people from the East. There is something greater than all the people. Some say it is The Mountain, other call it the Great Spirit, and some think it is the land itself. I can't say what it all means, that is for you to decide. But Taos is special. However, some folks never see it. They come to town and only see mud houses and leave. Others come and stay forever touched by the spirit of wonder.

Who were these people, where did they come from? Who lives here today and what do they do? Well as you walk across La Plaza you will begin to run into these folks. They aren't any different than those who have passed before. Taos was here before and Taos will be here after.

From Community Services

One of the foremost Taoseños involved in community service was Pascual Martinez born in 1884 in Ranchito. His family tree has deep roots in Taos soil. Pascual's record in public service to his country is an impressive one. He served on bond drives, raised funds for the Red Cross, for the National War Fund, he crusaded against infantile paralysis, traveled in all kinds of weather in the Bookmobile over bad roads, showing movies, educating his people.
L. Pascual Martinez
Perhaps more than any other Spanish-American, Pascual was a strong link that combined tradition and today together. His forbearers left an important and powerful imprint upon Taos -- both educationally and esthetically. Pascual made his imprint too -- on woods and streams, mountain and valley -- in public service, in town county and state. He respected the old and championed the new.

From Education

Sister Loretta
 School Children]
Sister Loretta School Children
Back at the turn of the century, or I guess to be really accurate around 1911-12, most of us children in Taos County were taught by young men and women trained at the Sisters of Loretta school in Taos. Participants there either earned their teacher's certificate or had them renewed. It wasn't a college like those we have today.
There wasn't a degree program there and there weren't any dormitories. The trainees who were from out of town had to live in the homes of friends or relatives. It was a six-weeks session in the summer and more than once my mother took in some young man or woman while they studied there. I guess that's what inspired me to be a teacher all those years.

Of course, all that was different for the Pueblo children. Most of them were schooled on the pueblo instead of coming into town; junior and senior high school for them was often undertaken outside of Taos. My best friend, Tonita Archuleta went to St. Catherine Indian School and I knew several children who went to the U.S. Indian School in Santa Fe.

Because of the difficulties of getting around back in the old days, the whole county was dotted with little school buildings that were used as elementary schools. There's still one of those buildings standing on Las Cruces Road that used to house grades six to eight. Remember, it was run by Professor Compton. Now it's someone's private home.
We got out first public school building housing grades one through twelve back in 1918. In the early 1930's a new high school building was constructed near that location right in the heart of town and the old building continued to be used for the lower grades. They demolished that building in the early 1980's. Part of the old high school has been incorporated into the present public grade school.

The pueblo supports a grade school today; most of the pueblo young people go the the Taos junior and senior high schools. Some Pueblo young people, however, still go to the Santa Fe institutions for educating Indian children. Taos Pueblo boasts a large number of college graduates, many of whom work at the Pueblo. Lots, however, are off contributing in other locations around the state and country.

From Government

It is difficult to condense a life so continuously active and forward-moving as that of Jesusita Acosta Perrault. She was a driving force for good government in this state from the time as a young girl when she made friends among the state politicians who visited her parents.

Her father was Don J. Nepomuceno Acosta. Her mother, Dona Refugito Morales Acosta was descended from a long line of Spanish Dons (full meaning "De Origen Noble"). Jesusita was born in the beautiful two-storey villa of her grandparents in Chihuahua, Mexico. Her young years were divided between time spent in this atmosphere of natural and exotic beauty and schooling in Silver City, New Mexico where her father owned the local blacksmith and machine shop.

Armed with the knowledge she had gained from her astute associates, she traveled the state teaching rural voters to understand their ballots--what the candidates stood for. It was on her very first trip into the remote parts of New Mexico that I met her. She was a "trouper"--traveling over dangerous roads to speak as many as three times in one night in three far-apart places. Sometimes we had no food, sometimes someone gave a fine banquet. Often we had to stop the car by the side of the road so that some group gathered there would get the chance to hear her speak. Then we'd travel into the night to some tiny meeting hall, lit by kerosene lamps, where the rapt audience would listen to her expound on good government, the importance of education for the young, the betterment of her own people. Her following grew and grew. To the end of her days, when she made a political speech, the hall was packed by those who came from miles around to hear her poetic, impassioned, fighting words.

After the death of her husband, Edward Albert Perrault, in 1926, with four young daughters to support, Jesusita continued her career in public service. Having worked as an interpreter and translator for the Silver City Selective Service and as Deputy Assessor of Grant County, she went on, in 1927-1928, to serve under Judge Doniphan as Juvenile Officer in Grant County. In 1929 she was elected Secretary of State under Governor Dillon and served in this capacity through 1931.When her term as Secretary of State ended she started the first U.S. Employment Service in the state in Albuquerque. She was one of three women and fifty-seven men to be sent to the White House in Washington for a convention of Executive and State Directors in this service. When she moved to Taos in 1939 only to discover the women here cold to politics, she organized two hundred Taosenas who worked with her to get the Republicans into office again.

Thought Jesusita Perrault was always an undeviating Republican, her bipartisan following loved and respected her for her dignity, grace, scrupulous honest and strength.

From Employment
Doughbelly Price
Employment in Taos can be different. Some have moved here in order to have a "kicked back" life style, one where they can work a little less strenuously than was the case wherever they escaped from. Others have lived here from day one, as have their families, for generations. They might work in a family business, one where hours are not to be counted. Sometimes one is reminded of the old joke: "They say that the number of jobs available has gone up of late... I'll agree to that... I've got three, myself, so far!"

Take the case of Doughbelly Price: After renting a house in Taos, he created and ran the first official bootlegging business here, from 1927 until 1929. Then he ran a restaurant on the Plaza for four months, until the business was sold and he went back to bootlegging. A couple of months later he received a 90 day sentence and had to quit. When he got out he resumed a career of bootlegging, gambling, and buying cattle (sometimes with his own money). In his own way, he could be seen as quite resourceful.Seasonal work in a tourist economy is not unusual. New businesses are started here, and some have become quite successful. Others have discovered that the way to become a millionare in Taos is to be sure and start out with two million. Safe bet? Know just what you want to do here before you come...and plan to work very hard in order to reach your goal.

From Health

Health care has changed much since "Saca Muelas", (tooth puller) Mueller worked on the plaza. I can remember Dr. Fred Mueller's patients sitting in a folding canvas chair and a using an ordinary pail as a cuspidor. There was no elctricticy so ingenious Fred rigged up a drill operated by a foot pedal and so successully transformed an old Singer Sewing machine that he could polish and shape false teeth and inlays. His sterilizer was a copper wash boiler into which he soldered a perforated compartment with a spigot at the bottom for drainage. When the water in the boiler was heated on a coal stove the steam did a good job of sterilizing. Health
Business in Taos was small (eighty pesos for the first month), so alternate weeks Fred packed his portable equipment and traveled to all four corners of Taos county--Ute Park, Penasco, Mora, El Rito, Tres Piedras--sometimes in a buck board, sometimes by by John Dunn's stage, sometimes riding the Chile Line along the great Rio Grande. It was tough going and Long John Dunn thought it was time Fred had a car. One day he said to him, "You see that Maxwell car standing over there? You can have it in the morning if you want it". "You bet", said Fred. "I will", said John, who gambled with the owner of the car that night and Fred got it in the morning.

Health care today is very different. In fact, Taos has a brand new state-of-the-art hospital.

From News and Weather

El Heraldo de Taos, 1896 - Early Spanish Newspaper
The sun shines in Taos about 340 days a year. In lots of other places, that's news. The local newspaper, The Taos News, comes out once a week, on Thursday morning. You can get a copy of the want-ads after 4 p.m. on Tuesday, in various locations around town.
On Thursday morning you will find lots of people, young and not so young, selling the News on street corners. The let ters to the editor provide lots of entertainment for the week to come. They seem to provide a clue as to the diversity and style of the people who live here. And when the weather turns cool, the paper makes great fire starter, in the woodstove or kiva fireplace. If you don't care for the weather, just wait a minute. If you don't care for the news, just wait a week. Or listen for the news and weather on the local radio stations: KKIT AM and KTAO FM. Email happens every day, of course, and now that we have La Plaza one can keep up with the gossip in a very regular way. Want to form a newsgroup?

From Food and Lodging

Ida Gee and The Grand View]

Taos has always been known for its hospitality. Even in the early days when Ida Gee came to Taos with her second husband in 1919 and leased the Grand View Hotel. Taos was very primitive in those days. Kerosene lanterns flickered in the windows of the saloons, small stores and houses. After her husband died, Ida bought the historic Governor Bent House near the Grand View, which had ten rooms and another dining room.

Ida created a pleasant atmosphere. There she was, in a spotless starched apron, voluminous skirt, face rosey with the heat of the stove, her figure now heavier, her feet still light. She served three meals a day in both the Grand View Hotel and the Governor Bent house. Up at 5:00 am, she cooked late into the night making her own delicious cakes, pies and biscuits. Travelers stranded by impassable roads could always count on her for a substantial meal, even if she had to get up at midnight to cook it.

Although Ida's dining room is no longer open. there are still good restaurants on Bent Street. The Governor Bent House is a museum but as you walk through you may still smell one of those delicious pies baking.

From Arts and Literature

Arts and Literature

When Ernest L. Blumenschein and Bert Phillips, two young artists who were traveling by wagon from Denver to Mexico in 1898, lost a wagon wheel some place north of Taos and were forced to head here for repairs, little did they know they were soon to start a trickle of artists into the Taos valley that would swell for the next forty years. A flood of artists and writers came to Taos for the native people, the landscape, the light, the silence. As D.H. Lawrence said, "Taos is a state of mind." it was. And is.

These two men were the first of the famous Seven who came to Taos first and whose paintings now hang in most of the museums in America. They are: Phillips, Blumenschein, Oscar Edmund Berninghaus, Victor Higgins, E. Irving Couse, Joseph Henry Sharp and Walter Ufer. By 1915 there were enough artists painting in Taos that the Taos Society of Artists was formed.

Before a year was up, the art scene, already lively and contentious, was further activated by the arrival of Maurice Sterne and his wife Mabel who was soon to take her place as the queen of this southwestern Bohemia.

Mabel's presence here soon elicited visits from her famous artists friends and the "golden age" of Taos began. After she divorced Sterne to marry Tony Luhan from Taos Pueblo, the Honorable Dorothy Brett, with her brass ear-trumpet named Toby arrived with D.H. and Frieda Lawrence. Mabel, Frieda and Brett were friendly, if public, rivals for the rest of their lives. Old timers speak of this period with great fondness. One could visit the Don Fernando Hotel at any time and see someone interesting, if not both interesting and famous. Parties--with legal liquor after Prohibition and with plenty of illegal liquor during (rum runners from Mexico arriving at 3 a.m. like clockwork)--were great centers of conversation where exciting people did and said exciting things.

Invited by Mabel, Georgia O'Keeffe was soon on the scene to add the strokes of her brush and more good talk when Mabel and she fought and she left Mabel's to take up residence, first at the newly built Sagebrush Inn, then for many years in Abiquiu.

Skiing was already becoming popular in the late 1920's. Skis were ordered from Sears, Roebuck; the men often skied shirtless; and the cabin in Taos Canyon which served as a skiing headquarters saw many competitions among the ladies for fabulous lunch preparations.

Taos today exhibits the fruits of this sometimes arduous, often frivolous, early art colony. There are many galleries, museums, fabulous ski slopes, places to wine and dine and a raft of late twentieth century Bohemians.

From Home and Garden

Home and Garden

When Ralph Meyers moved to Taos in the early 1900's he found adobe houses as well as wood, flat roofs and pitched to shed the snowfall. There were apple trees and apricot as well. Gardens were for vegetables, but there were surely flowers everywhere. Wild sunflowers lined the rural roads, and blueflag grew in fields where horses ate the grass but let the flowers go. There surely were flower gardens, with their hollyhocks and columbine. But just as surely there were the wild roses, the Indian paintbrush, and the purple asters. There were the glories of the chamisa and the flowering cacti, the mullein shooting up, and the bindweed going sideways. And in the crisp days of fall, the aspens turned not only yellow, but orange and reddish brown as well. Ralph Meyers came to live and work in a remote part of the West, surrounded by remnants of a dying era: Spanish-American men were still bringing wood from the mountains on burros, still wearing serapes, long hair, and tewas (crude moccasin type shoes with hair on the hide); the women wore black fringed shawls, carried heavy bundles on their heads as they walked to Taos from Ranchos, Talpa, Llano and back again. Today, some things have changed, but the beauty of Taos remains, as do adobe dwellings with their rounded edges and warm fires, fueled by wood brought down from the mountains.