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Filed under: Family Day Trips, Historic Places & Landmarks, Scenic Byways/Historic Routes, The Road Less Traveled

The Annual Pilgrimage to Chimayo–Part 2

May 15, 2011 by · 2 Comments 


As described in a previous post, each year during Holy Week, Christians from New Mexico and the surrounding area undertake a journey, typically on foot, to the small village of Chimayo. They are headed toward the Santuario de Chimayo, the site of a miracle back in the 1800s. It is believed to have been the site of many healings over the years. In fact, the Tewa Indians, who inhabited the area even before the Spanish, had considered it a site for healing long before the Spanish settlers arrived.

Santuario de ChimayoUpon their arrival, the Spanish called this parcel of land “the pasture,” unaware of its healing propensities until the crucifix appeared to Abeyta. Originally a spring had bubbled up from the area, rich in iron and other minerals. When the spring dried up, Indians still came for the dirt for healing and sacred uses.

While the land had been inhabited by Native Americans in ancient times, Pueblo Indians later moved in and names the rose-colored mountain nearby “Tsi Mayoh,” sacred mountain of the east. The village of Chimayo was named for the mountain and founded in the late 1600s by Spanish colonists who settled the valley nourished by the Santa Cruz River. They engaged in such Spanish arts and traditions as weaving, wood carving and tin work. These traditions continue strongly in the village today.

Closeup of the SantuarioThe church itself is handmade of adobe with large carved wooden doors. A quote on the wall of the “well” room reads,

“If you are a stranger, if you are weary from the struggles in life, whether you have a handicap, whether you have a broken heart, follow the long mountain road, find a home in Chimayo.”

Visitors to the Santuario, walkers or not, often visit the shrine in search of healing. In fact, most seek to take home a small portion of the sacred red dirt found in a small well, or “pozito”, in a room to the left of the sanctuary. This dirt is believed to have healing properties as well. It is in this room that those in search of healing come to pray, receive healing, and rubbing some of the dirt on an afflicted area or taking some home to put on an alter. Those who are healed often make a second trip, to give thanks for the healing, often leaving crutches, casts, braces, canes and walkers, they no longer find themselves in need of in another side room referred to as “the crutch room” in reference to the numerous devices that adorn its walls, a testament to its effectiveness.

Statue of Bernardo de Abeyta

Statue of Bernardo de Abeyta

The chapel that was originally constructed is still standing, but in recent years the Bernardo Abeyta Museum has been added. The museum details the history of the Santuario and what led Abeyta to build the Church that is now considered the “Lourdes of America.” The museum also offers exhibits of traditional religious art created by New Mexican and world-renowned artists. Through their efforts you can visualize the passion of Christ as well as other popular saints and inspiring subjects.

For more information about camping in New Mexico, browse Woodall’s listings of New Mexico Campgrounds.


2 Responses to “The Annual Pilgrimage to Chimayo–Part 2”
  1. Hoby says:

    I think that Santuario de Chimayo is one of the most easily recognized missions in Southwestern art (it is very common, and once you’ve seen it, you can easilty pick it out with the gate open and the cross between the gate and the mission doors). Also, when in Chimayo, you always want to pick up some of their dried red chile; it has an incredible spicy and smoky flavor and creates the awesome cuisine you find in Santa Fe, Taos, and Chimayo. The last time I was there for the pilgrammage I was so impressed by how much effort the state residents and police put in to keep the pilgrams safe.

  2. Diane Berry says:

    We, too, were most impressed by the efforts of law enforcement and residents to keep walkers safe. It was truly a memorable experience. Will have to look for the dried red chile on our next visit! Thanks for your comment.

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