Leyendas: El Rincón Trading Post turns 100 years old

By Rick Romancito
Posted 9/26/09

Exactly one hundred years ago, “the ’60s” were remembered not for rock concerts, “Easy Rider” or hippies. That, of course would come much, much later.

Instead, for Taoseños living at that time, the ’60s were remembered for the Civil …

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Leyendas: El Rincón Trading Post turns 100 years old

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Exactly one hundred years ago, “the ’60s” were remembered not for rock concerts, “Easy Rider” or hippies. That, of course would come much, much later.

Instead, for Taoseños living at that time, the ’60s were remembered for the Civil War. Exactly 100 years go, Taos wasn’t known as a world famous art colony.

It wouldn’t be until 1915 that Bert Philips, Ernest Blumenschein, Oscar Berninghaus, Joseph H. Sharp, E. Irving Couse and Herbert Dunton started the Taos Society of Artists.

In fact, in 1909, New Mexico wasn’t yet a state. Taos was well-known, however, as a crossroads, a place where people would come to trade a variety of goods such as tanned hides, beads, pottery, silver, weapons, livestock — sometimes even slaves.

Trappers, explorers and mountain men, such as legendary tracker Kit Carson, would make their way to Taos for annual trade fairs at Taos Pueblo where they’d mingle with local Hispanos and Pueblo Indians, often setting aside long-running hostilities during the festivities.

It took artist-and-entrepreneur Ralph Meyers to open the fi rst offi cial trading post here, right across the street from where Carson once lived. That shop, later named El Rincón (The Corner), has been a gathering place for locals and travelers ever since. This year marks the centennial anniversary of El Rincón.

Historical ties

In a 1991 interview for Tempo, artist and local gallery owner Ouray Meyers said his father fi rst came to Taos in 1903.

“He was 18 years old. He came here as an artist, and he made a living doing that for a while. He wanted to paint the Indians, but at that time they kind of didn’t accept the white man too much. They didn’t understand what they were after.”

Eventually, that initial distrust gave way to friendship.

“My dad used to sit on the wall out there (at Taos Pueblo) and fi nally they became friends and started trusting one another. He ended up trading with the Indians … A lot of the things in the Smithsonian (Institution) and other museums came through my dad.”

The elder Meyers became one of the fi rst to sell artwork by painters who would later establish Taos as an artist’s colony. He hired Diné and Pueblo Indians to work in his shop, making jewelry and Native crafts for the growing tourist trade. According to Paul “Paco” Castillo, current owner of El Rincón — which also houses a bed and breakfast inn — Frank Waters depicted his grandfather Ralph as the “Good White Trader” in the classic novel “The Man Who Killed the Deer” (1942).

Paco himself began making jewelry at the age of 8, observing how his grandfather’s respectful business practices earned him many life-long friendships in the Pueblo community.

Social circle

During the 20th century, El Rincón was a hotbed of activity, often involving the “movers and shakers” of the Taos area. Ouray Meyers said that when he was growing up, “it almost seemed that there was more going on than there is now … there was always things to do and places to go.”

In 1933, Ralph married Rowena Matteson, who was 25 years his junior, according to El Rincón B&B’s Web site (www.stayintaos.com).

“In 1936 they had a daughter, Nina Cristina, and in 1938, a son, Ouray Emerson, named for Chief Ouray of the Uncompahgre Utes. Together they ran the trading post, and opened La Doña Luz Restaurant, which they operated together until Ralph passed away in 1948.”

In the Web site account, Ralph Meyers and famous Taos arts patron Mabel Dodge Luhan “often joked about being buried together.

Years later when Mabel passed on, Frank Waters recalled their playful banter and remarked, ‘I don’t think Ralph would mind moving over a bit for Mabel.’ And with Rowena’s approval, it was done. Mabel was buried next to her dear old friend in the Kit Carson cemetary.” Adjacent to El Rincón sits the famous Doña Luz Inn, started by Ralph’s daughter (Paco’s mother), Nina Meyers, in 1985.

The adobe home dates back to 1802 when it belonged to La Doña Luz Lucero de Martínez, the daughter-in-law of Don Severino Martínez, builder of the Martínez Hacienda on Lower Ranchitos Road.

“A well educated lady of her time, Doña Luz and her family provided lodging and entertained visiting dignitaries with music, conversation, food and libations,” states the inn’s Web site.

Paco Castillo took over the inn in 1989 and embarked on 10 years of extensive renovations. After Ralph’s death in 1948, Rowena closed the shop and married J. Paul Martinez, but re - opened after retiring in 1970. Rowena died in 2000. Succumbing to cancer in 2007, Nina Meyers passed away at the age of 71 in the same home in which she was born. Today, El Rincón is struggling to stay open. Yet, it remains one of the great treasures of Taos history and culture.

El Rincón Trading Post is located at 114 Kit Carson Road. Call (575) 758-9188. Visit online www.elrincontaos.com

Look for our next section of Tradiciones — Raíces — in the Oct. 1 edition of The Taos News.

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