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Victoria Borodinova, 'City of the Future'

Like many, I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of tourists in town this summer and wondered, “How many of them truly understand what Taos is all about?” But I recently ran across an art book containing a painting entitled “Tourist Town, Taos.” It showed a Taos Plaza scene with automobiles and horse carts, dressed up “Cowboys” and gals, Pueblo people in their traditional shawls and storefronts advertising drugs and liquor. The accompanying commentary from the artist, Barbara Latham, criticized the corrupting influence of modernity on the Taos culture and flung a jaundiced eye on the tourists flocking to the town center who she felt would bring negative influences for the future.

Both the painting and the commentary were from 1940.

Nostalgia is a deceptive outlook and for those now yearning for some mythical “Good old days” of the 1940s, chances are Taoseños back then were yearning for the good old days of the 1870s and so on back to who knows when. While reading the history of Taos, the first impression I got is that this is a region that has always been in constant change and such change has initially been resisted. Change is not necessarily a bad thing. Communities that refuse to do so, eventually stagnate and die. I don’t believe that will happen here but instead of fighting change, it should be directed in ways that benefit the entire community, not just a few. Taos is a victim of its own unique character which is why it appears in nearly all “Best Small Towns You Gotta Visit” sidebars on online news sites. How does one balance a tourist economy with the need to promote self-sufficiency?

You don’t need to be a psychic to know that the next fifty years will look nothing like the past fifty. Technological advancements aside, the entire global community will be addressing issues that are not unique to Taos. Climate change, the growing divide between the haves and have-nots, the threat of totalitarianism and the spread of “Us versus Them” tribalism will test the human race in ways that are incomprehensible to us living in this current time. And contrary to the belief systems of both traditional religions and the New Age crowd, there will be no magical Deus Ex Machina from the outside to come save us. The flying saucers ain’t arriving anytime soon. We will have to do it ourselves.

As a relative new arrival to Taos, I have little interest in snarling over who did what to whom in 1598, 1680 and 1847. I’m more concerned if we’ll survive the next two decades. Northern New Mexico has been fortunate to have been spared the climate change - inspired catastrophes that made the headlines this past summer. But gentrification, affordable housing and maintaining the special character of our town are growing concerns although it’s worth noting that this process is happening worldwide. From my own travels and conversations, I’ve learned that there is no place on earth that resembles itself from even twenty years ago. We can learn from the past but we cannot afford to cling to it.

Whether we like it or not, Taos will be propelled into the future and if it is going to face its challenges, it would be wise to do so by utilizing the intelligence, skills and experiences of all Taoseños regardless of ethnicity or the stereotypes that surround them. While some have a vested interest in promoting resentment and division, such a mentality is both narrow-minded and self-defeating. Taos needs the newcomers and the centuries-old families, the farmers and the artists, the visionaries and the pragmatics, the leaders and the gadflies. We benefit from all the diverse strands of DNA that make up the Taos community.

The good news, however, is that a flood of young people has arrived here. I ran into them at the Revolt Gallery right after the Los Lobos concert in Kit Carson Park. There were about a hundred of them, a lively, rugged bunch and amazed, I asked a bemused young woman standing next to me “Where did you all come from?”

Her answer was less important than the fact that here they were which I see as a positive development. Like so many times before. Taos is once again a magnet. The energy and passion of youth combined with the experience and wisdom of us old geezers might create a forward-moving community. We might never all agree but that has never stopped people from working together.

Daniel A. Brown is an artist, teacher and writer living in Taos County.

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(1) comment

Keith Palmer

Northern New Mexico has not been spared the climate change. Check out any map projecting 30, 50, 100 years into the future. Northern New Mexico is the #1 biggest increase in heat in America.

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