The word 'Taos' means 'red willow' in the Tewa language.
During the 1770s Taos was repeatedly raided by Comanches who at that time lived in the plains of what is now eastern Colorado. Juan Bautista de Anza, governor of the Province of New Mexico, led a successful punitive expedition in 1779 against the Comanches.
Beginning in 1898 artists began to settle in Taos. In time an art colony developed. Many paintings were made of local scenes, especially of Taos Pueblo and activities there. Many of the artists used Native Americans from the pueblo as models in often fanciful paintings. Some of the artists' studios have been preserved and may be viewed by visitors to Taos. For more information see Taos art colony.
As of the census of 2000, there are 4,700 people, 2,067 households, and 1,157 families residing in the town. The population density is 337.9/km² (874.5/mi²). There are 2,466 housing units at an average density of 177.3/km² (458.8/mi²). The racial makeup of the town is 68.04% White, 0.53% African American, 4.11% Native American, 0.62% Asian, 0.11% Pacific Islander, 21.66% from other races, and 4.94% from two or more races. 54.34% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There are 2,067 households out of which 27.5% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 34.7% are married couples living together, 16.2% have a female householder with no husband present, and 44.0% are non-families. 37.3% of all households are made up of individuals and 12.1% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.18 and the average family size is 2.87.
In the town the population is spread out with 23.0% under the age of 18, 6.6% from 18 to 24, 26.4% from 25 to 44, 27.8% from 45 to 64, and 16.2% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 41 years. For every 100 females there are 85.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 81.3 males.
The median income for a household in the town is $25,016, and the median income for a family is $33,564. Males have a median income of $27,683 versus $23,326 for females. The per capita income for the town is $15,983. 23.1% of the population and 17.9% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total people living in poverty, 26.8% are under the age of 18 and 24.4% are 65 or older.