Tom Gallegos, a native New Mexican born and raised in Taos, has made it his mission to provide authentic cultural experiences in the Land of Enchantment. His immersive tours introduce guests to the magic of New Mexico and receive rave reviews. Asked about a memorable experience as a guide, Tom casually mentioned that a United States senator recently attended one of his tours – and afterwards, she wrote him to say that it was one of the best experiences of her life!
Read on to find out more about Tom Gallegos, the man behind True New Mexico.
Why did you become a guide?
I became a guide eight years ago after returning to live in Santa Fe from Kansas, where I was an Assistant Professor of Gerontology and Aging at Washburn University and the University of Kansas. I began with week long large group tours through New Mexico with Road Scholar. I was really good at it and received great feedback from visitors. I truly enjoy the opportunity to share our beautiful state with others. Our pueblos and villages rely on tourism, and I try to support them by bringing quality tours.
What can someone expect to experience on a tour with you?
My tours are designed to “bring the culture through” with authentic experiences that highlight New Mexico’s history, cultures, architecture, art, and cuisine.
The unique cultures, history and scenery of New Mexico are best experienced on my Timeless Taos & High Road Tour. Heading north from Santa Fe, we pass through various Indian Pueblos. San Ildefonso and Santa Clara pueblos are home to some of our most accomplished potters. At Ohkay Owingeh, we will see the site of the first European settlement in the U.S. by Juan de Onate in 1598. We then view ancient petroglyphs on lava boulders at Mesa Prieta before driving along the Rio Grande River and up to Taos.
Our stops in Taos include the fantastic Gorge Bridge, ancient Taos Pueblo, the Taos Plaza and lunch at the historic Taos Inn. Upon leaving Taos we view the iconic church in Ranchos de Taos, a favorite subject of paintings by Georgia O’Keeffe and the photography of Ansel Adams. We return on the High Road, traveling up to 9,000 feet through the Spanish villages of Penasco, Chamisal, Las Trampas, and Truchas, site of the classic Robert Redford movie Milagro Beanfield War.
Our next stop is in Chimayo to visit the Ortega Weavers and the Santuario de Chimayo where over 300,000 people visit yearly to collect some of the “healing earth” and visit the stores and galleries in this revered village. Upon our return to Santa Fe we often stop to visit Cathy Smith at her Nambe Trading Post. Cathy is an author, historian and scholar who won an Emmy for costume design. And, If time permits we may also have a wine tasting at the beautiful Estrella Del Norte Vineyard. This full-day adventure provides a memorable “True New Mexico” experience.
What do you do when you’re not leading tours of New Mexico?
Apart from my work as a tour guide, I am completing my first novel, Secrets to Tell, on the early years of the Manhattan Project in Los Alamos. This historic fiction novel focuses on the “legacy waste” from the bomb-making activities at Los Alamos and the potential for contamination of the people and the environment. I still teach at area universities, and I also play golf and spend time with my two-year-old granddaughter Una.
Describe your perfect day in Santa Fe.
On a perfect day in Santa Fe, it’s warm and I’m sitting on the Plaza with a carnita from Roque. After that, I walk along the portal to admire the Natives’ crafts and visit the New Mexico Museum of Art. Finally, I conclude the day by enjoying Doug Montgomery on the piano at Vanessie for dinner.