Part One: The Santuarios of Chimayo
Welcome to Pilgrim land! This is an account of my 120-mile walking pilgrimage in northern New Mexico.
On the first day of my pilgrimage, I spent the day in Chimayo and the surrounding countryside. El Santuario de Chimayo is built on the site where a large crucifix was found in the early 1800s. The soil where the crucifix was found is gathered by pilgrims. There have been many cures attributed to the use of the Holy Dirt. In a little side room with a low door, there is a little well in the floor full of fine sandy reddish soil. This is the holy dirt. Pilgrims scoop it up to take to friends and relatives who are sick or rub it between their hands while praying silently.
The shrine is an old adobe structure and it is full of beautiful paintings from the 1800s. It is the most visited shrine in the US. I saw cars with license plates from eight states in the shrine parking lot. Next door is the shrine of Santo Nino de Atocha. This shrine is especially for little children. On the ceiling of the the room where the statue of Santo Nino is located, are many little shoes that people have left as offerings. I had a wonderful day touring both shrines and praying in the room where many people leave crutches, canes, and photos after they have been healed. Our group climbed the hill above town to visit a tiny private chapel and hiked out into the desert to visit a cave where our pilgrim guide spent a winter living as a hermit. We also walked around the quaint little town of Chimayo and saw buildings that had been built in the 1600s.