Reflections on the killing of the Taos Plaza tree

By Davíd Fernandez de Taos
Posted 11/26/19

On Oct. 29, the Taos town administration ordered the cutting and death of the great and venerable tree that had stood strongly in place in the center of the Taos Plaza for more than a century.

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Reflections on the killing of the Taos Plaza tree

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On Oct. 29, the Taos town administration ordered the cutting and death of the great and venerable tree that had stood strongly in place in the center of the Taos Plaza for more than a century. (See “Plaza tree comes down,” Oct. 31, Taos News.)

The felling of this tree caused many expressions of outrage in the community because for many the cottonwood was a symbol of the vital strength of the historical and cultural legacy of the Taos area. Many people grieved over the death of this tree as if it were a close family individual or a benevolent familiar and notable personage who had been killed.

And although such persons might have been either famous or unrecognized in the world, they are missed if suddenly they are no longer in our midst, and it is realized that they were even more than they seemed – that they possessed and showed profound values by their lives. Their deaths can be compared to great trees which have fallen or been felled but which continue to provide a strong and continuing legacy for the good of the society.

Now at this time we carry in prayer and in memory the souls of our beloved dead during this month of November. Some might say that it is more than coincidence that the death of this Taos tree has occurred during this special time of remembrances.

When a great tree falls, or is felled in the mountains or in the forest or in the Taos Plaza, it is an important event. While still alive, such a great tree provides much for all the creatures which come to it. It gives needed shade to all who seek it and provides place for the nests of birds and a variety of food for different animals and people as well.

Such a grand and strong tree simply enhances life in its neighborhoods. Then, when it is dead either naturally or by human design, it still leaves much – like a good gift or a valuable heritage for the world.

From such a fallen tree, all are able to take up its wood, and the wood from such a tree can be used to maintain one’s work and to provide for the necessities of a family.

And, of course, we note that an important part of our Northern culture and tradition are the famous artists and their families who are well known for their wooden santero carvings, the bultos and reredos and many other varieties of works which are produced from the wood of fine fallen trees.

Some of the religious and other art from this wood is used in the Fiestas processions, like the crucifixion guides or guías which the people follow in some of the community religious exercises in el norte.

At the same time, this notion of the great trees that provide shade and food and shelter also refers symbolically to describe the great and strong lives of many people and especially referring to our cultural and spiritual leaders in el norte.

The Holy Scriptures describe a noble life, which compares a just man or woman to a strong tree firmly planted on the banks of a river of clear pure water.

This is the water from the earth, but it is also perhaps a divine water, which at the same time sustains the terrestrial lives and also the divine and mysterious life.

Therefore, once in a while, people talk of one – he or she – who is as strong, as just, as a great tree. In our Northern culture we have known many such persons, some who are famous and many others who are not, but who have shown through their lives that they are firm, honest, generous and just.

And so we appreciate and thank all the men and women of el norte whom we have recognized as guides, leaders and resources as strong as the mighty venerable trees.

And hopefully the life, death and regeneration of the Taos Plaza tree that was felled may be an inspiration to the future generations of el norte’s legacy leaders and guías.

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