Chimayo New Mexico

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I visited Chimayo yesterday from my stay in Sante Fe. Nobody was there! I love to travel to see places in the snow covered quiet and stillness of winter. Void of tourists and all that brings, I was looking forward to experiencing a fresh New Mexico season. I’ve been here many times in the summer months. I’ve even ventured to Tao to try my skill at skiing. But a quiet winter retreat in Santa Fe desert sounded perfect. I was hoping I could make the trip to Chimayo since I arrived into Santa Fe in a full blown blizzard. We managed to slip and slide around town in our rear wheel drive rental and had a break in the snow yesterday. The roads were dry and clear and off we went in search of the famous church. The artwork in the church is amazing. The small arches doorways make you bow your head. Here’s some info from the Chimayo history site:

Shortly after the Pueblo Revolt,1680-1692, several groups of Spanish colonists settled in the northwestern section of the fertile Chimayó Valley. The colonists were hard working, independent farmers and artisans whose occupations included weaving, day labor and stock raising. They came to the area in hopes of receiving the title hidalgo (nobleman) if they stayed. Frequently they were granted land, building lots, subsidies and farming implements for their new life of hardship on the frontier.

The Plaza of San Burenaventura, now called the Plaza del Cerro was built around 1740. It is the last surviving Spanish fortified plaza in the southwest. It consists of a square of contiguous adobe buildings with only two entrances. A torreon, or defensive watch tower, stands on the south side, while a small chapel sits on the western side. The acequia madre, or main irrigation ditch, the heartbeat of every northern New Mexico rural area, runs through the plaza.

Somewhere around 1810, a Chimayó friar was performing penances when he saw a light bursting from a hillside. Digging, he found a crucifix, quickly dubbed the miraculous crucifix of Our Lord of Esquipulas. A local priest brought the crucifix to Santa Cruz, but three times it disappeared and was later found back in its hole. By the third time, everyone understood that El Senor de Esquipulas wanted to remain in Chimayó, and so a small chapel was built on the site. Then the miraculous healings began. These grew so numerous that the chapel had to be replaced by the larger, current Chimayó Shrine — an adobe mission — in 1816.

Believed to be built on sacred earth with miraculous healing powers, the legendary shrine El Santuario de Chimayó, is probably the most visited church in New Mexico. The crucifix which began the original shrine still resides on the chapel alter, but for some reason its curative powers have been overshadowed by El Posito, the “sacred sand pit” from which it sprang. Each year during Holy Week thousands of people make a pilgrimage to Chimayó to visit the Santuario and take away a bit of the sacred dirt. Pilgrims walk a few yards or a hundred miles. Many claim to have been cured there of diseases, infirmities and unhappiness. The walls of the sacristy are hung with discarded crutches and before-and-after photographs as evidence of the healing.

The annual pilgramages to the Santurio do Chimayó continue every Easter weekend. Most pilgrims start walking in Santa Fe, twenty-seven miles to the south, but others come the eighty miles from Albuquerque, walking part of the way barefoot or crawling the last few yards on their knees (a common tradition in Spain and Latin America). Over 300,000 people visit this sacred site every year.

Must eat at Leona’s next to the church. Fantastic tamales and other delights. It was closed when I was there (closed tuesdays and wednesdays).

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