For decades, this small town and church in Northern New Mexico has been attracting hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world. It is reported that nearly 300,000 pilgrims come to El Santuario de Chimayo every year, according to the Archdiocese of Santa Fe. Why, you ask? Pilgrims walk the grounds for a few yards, and some even walk there from distances of over one hundred miles in search of healing. In fact, many people claim to have been cured in this sacred area from diseases, infirmities, and unhappiness. The Walls of the Sacristy are hung with discarded crutches, along with before-and-after photographs, as evidence of the area’s ability to heal.
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 adorned 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. The shrine is located in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, and has been called the Lourdes of America. The chapel was privately owned until 1929, when several people bought it and turned it over to the Archdiocese of Santa Fe. Tradition has it that on the night of Good Friday in 1810, Don Bernardo Abeyta was performing customary penances in the hills. Here is the legend of what happened, according to an account published by The Archdiocese of Santa Fe:
“Suddenly, he saw a light springing from one of the slopes of the hills near the Santa Cruz River. Don Bernardo went to the spot, and noticed that the shining light was coming from the ground. He started to dig with his bare hands, and there he found a Crucifix. He called neighbors to see it, and a group of men were sent to notify the priest at Santa Cruz. The priest arrived, picked up the Crucifix and, with a joyful procession, carried it back to his church, where it was placed in the niche of the main altar. The next morning, the Crucifix was gone, only to be found in its original location.”
“Again, the priest organized a procession and brought the Crucifix to Santa Cruz, and again it disappeared and was found in its original spot. Three times, this occurred. By then, everyone understood that the Crucifix of Our Lord of Esquipulas wanted to remain in Chimayo, and so a small chapel was built.”
This church was built in 1814, and has been drawing pilgrims for several decades. As a boy, I remember taking this walk with my family every year on Good Friday. One thing I always loved, as we made our 25 mile walk, was watching all the Lowriders who passed us by. Now, as an adult, I get the same satisfaction as I did in those early days of my life. Hundreds of Lowriders from all over the state of New Mexico make the annual pilgrimage. It’s a great day of unity, friends, food, and great New Mexico musica. This year, the weather put a little speed bump in the festivities, as it rained and snowed for a bit in the morning, but once it cleared up, the Lowriders were out in full force for the annual Good Friday cruise. Clubs in attendance included Rollerz Only, Prestigious, Severed Ties, Dukes, and Tru Ridaz, just to name a few. “Every year it seems to keep growing,” said Big Tigger, VP of Rollerz Only NM. “We have street hops, and people seem to really freak out when the cars start getting to 80 inches plus in the air….keep in mind we have people from all over the world that haven’t been exposed to stuff like that; it’s great.”
You can find every race, age, and type of Lowrider making the annual pilgrimage to Chimayo. If you have never been on a pilgrimage like this, this trip will certainly leave a lasting impression on you. When you arrive at the church, you will feel that something bigger than yourself is at work. Whether you believe in miracles, or believe in the legend of the sacred sand, you will at least agree that this blessed land is a peaceful and moving place for all!