In the Rearview: This week in The Taos News' archives

A juncture in the Cabresto Dam saga, a curious anatomy class and an esteemed visitor from Spain


The Taos News staff dug into the newspaper's archives to uncover the top stories of the week from 10, 25 and 50 years ago. We found information about a chapter in the Cabresto Dam saga, a description of an unusual anatomy class and a visit from an esteemed Spanish intellectual.

2007 - 10 years ago – 'Plans to breach Cabresto Dam elicit concern among water users', By Gabe Toth, July 12-18, 2007:

In July 2007, Questa residents were concerned about the status of the aging Cabresto Dam, which had been first built in 1922. The dam, privately owned by the Cabresto Lake Irrigation Community Ditch Association and the Llano Ditch Association, was revealed in 2005 to have significant structural problems. After some flooding necessitated inspections by state engineers, it was determined that the dam was the third most dangerous in New Mexico.

As a result, officials set and subsequently missed a 2006 deadline to repair seepage in the dam. In the spring of 2007, the reservoir was drained to let water flow through freely and prevent a disastrous breach.

The dam's owners had acquired $2.3 million of the $6 million needed to repair the dam. However, should the dam have been completely dismantled, there would have been no guarantee that a new dam could be built unless the owners raised the necessary funding.

The loss of accessible water threatened to prevent area farmers from harvesting a second crop. "All we can hope is that there's snow," Esther Garcia, the Cabresto association commissioner, was quoted as saying. "We can hope and pray that we get good winters. If we don't, there's nothing."

In 2015, The Taos News reported that after nearly a decade of work constructing a new dam and almost $7 million in construction costs, the new Cabresto Dam continued to be plagued by seepage problems.

1992 - 25 years ago – 'Anatomy lessons take to the dance floor', By Deborah Ensor, July 9, 1992.

"Traditional anatomy classes offer very little in the way of variety." So opened Deborah Ensor's July 1992 article about a certain kind of anatomy class. She wasn't talking about medical anatomy, however - rather, the kind that teaches visual artists how to represent the human figure.

"Perhaps one day you may draw a nude male standing up, the next lying down or maybe even sitting," Ensor wrote. "Or perhaps it will be a nude female, or someone in costume. In either case, traditional anatomy classes require the artist to draw, sketch or paint the figure standing still."

But keeping still wasn't in the interest of instructor Sally Moore, who had previously exhibited her own work at San Francisco's Museum of Modern Art. For her class, titled "Moving Anatomy for Artists," at the Bareiss Gallery on State Road 150, Moore recruited dancers from Taos to act as models for her students. During the entire day's course, the models would dance across the floor and the student artists would attempt to trace their movements on their canvases.

"Obviously, the work that comes out of the sessions is rather abstract," Ensor wrote, describing the art that was created as mostly series of colorful lines. "It is an exercise ... in freedom of movement, in losing control of the brush, in working fast and loose to try and ... capture only a feeling," Ensor added. "There is no time to think."

While some of the artists taking the class enjoyed the experience, some of the dancers were a little skeptical as to what their observers could accomplish from watching them.

"I wonder sometimes what they are getting out of our dancing," dancer Liyana Silver was quoted as saying. "I am having such a great time, and I don't know what they actually seem to catch."

1967 - 50 years ago – 'Visitor from Spain observes Taos cultures', July 13, 1967.

In July 1967, Taos had an unexpected visitor - a Spanish intellectual named Martin Dominguez. Under the auspices of the federal Department of State, the Valencia native came to Taos intending to study the Mexican and Spanish influences on Taos' way of life.

Dominguez had an impressive résumé. He was the author of six books; a lecturer on the subjects of political history, arts and economics; and had served as the director of Las Provincias, the daily newspaper of Valencia, which at that time maintained a circulation of 40,000. (The publication, founded in 1866, is still active today.)

Dominguez was guided on his trip by his translator, Paul Leach, a former member of the Peace Corps, as well as Mabel Kluykendall, the chairperson of the Taos County Chamber of Commerce Arts Committee.

Intrigued by Taos' Spanish influences, Dominguez was also interested in the trilingual abilities of Pueblo residents, the Pueblo architecture style and the town's many patios and courtyards that reminded him of his homeland.

Dominguez visited the famed St. Francis de Asís Mission Church in Ranchos de Taos, which was then in the process of a major $65,000 renovation (nearly half a million dollars today), as well as the San Geronimo Church of Taos Pueblo. He was most impressed with one last church, however - Our Lady of Guadalupe in Taos, at the sight of which he exclaimed, "Magnífico!"