Faith and Forgiveness on the Road to Chimayo

Pilgrimage Chimayo

Pilgrimage Chimayo

On Good Friday pilgrims travel the road from Nambé, New Mexico to El Santuario de Chimayo, Friday, April 18, 2014. As many as 40,000 pilgrims journey to El Santuario de Chimayo each year during the Easter weekend. (AP Photo/Jeremy Wade Shockley)

Pilgrimage Chimayo

Pilgrimage Chimayo

Bearing the weight of wooden crosses, Troy Martinez (left) and Nick Ortiz travel the “High Road to Taos” for the third consecutive year en route to El Santuario de Chimayo on Good Friday, April 18, 2014. Many pilgrims carry rosaries and crosses to pray for and honor loved ones. (AP Photo/Jeremy Wade Shockley)

Pilgrimage Chimayo

Pilgrimage Chimayo

A Catholic man brandishes his chest to reveal a personalized tattoo outside of the Santuario Chimayo.

Pilgrimage Chimayo

Pilgrimage Chimayo

LEFT: Modesto Martinez turned ninety in April of 2016, he makes the pilgrimage to El Santuario de Chimayo each year from his home in Española. RIGHT: Hilltop shrine on the road from Nambé, New Mexico, to El Santuario de Chimayo. Many pilgrims leave the road and scramble up steep hills to make special prayers at the hilltop shrines as they walk to Chimayo during Holy Week.

Pilgrimage Chimayo

Pilgrimage Chimayo

A family travels the “High Road to Taos” en route to El Santuario de Chimayo.

Pilgrimage Chimayo

Pilgrimage Chimayo

First light illuminates the small wooden crosses and rosaries, which adorn the fenceline leading up to the historic Santuario Chimayo.

Pilgrimage Chimayo

Pilgrimage Chimayo

Pilgrims of all ages file into the historic courtyard to El Santuario de Chimayo. The annual pilgrimage to Chimayo is considered the largest Catholic pilgrimage in the United States.

Pilgrimage Chimayo

Pilgrimage Chimayo

LEFT: Lorenzo Quintana of Portales, New Mexico participates in the Good Friday Procession at El Santuario de Chimayo, Friday, April 18, 2014. Quintana is of the Brotherhood of Los Penitentes, a lay confraternity of Spanish-American Roman Catholic men active in Northern New Mexico. (AP Photo/Jeremy Wade Shockley) RIGHT: Items are placed at the base of a cross, or roadside shrine, on the road from Nambé to El Santuario de Chimayo.

Pilgrimage Chimayo

Pilgrimage Chimayo

Pilgrims wait in line to enter El Santuario de Chimayo on Friday, April 18, 2014. Traditionally pilgrims take a small amount of Holy Dirt, believed to have healing powers, from “el pocito” or “the little well” inside the historic church, which was built in 1816. (AP Photo/Jeremy Wade Shockley)

Pilgrimage Chimayo

Pilgrimage Chimayo

Traditional Aztec dancers enter the courtyard at El Santuario de Chimayo during Easter weekend. Griselda Garcia leads the procession, the company of dancers hails from Mexico City.

Pilgrimage Chimayo

Pilgrimage Chimayo

Rosaries hang for sale outside of El Santuario de Chimayo during Holy Week, Friday, April 18, 2014. Many pilgrims carry rosaries and crosses to pray for and honor loved ones. (AP Photo/Jeremy Wade Shockley)

Pilgrimage Chimayo

Pilgrimage Chimayo

LEFT: Victor Moncada stands with a walking stick, Thursday, April 17, that belongs to his uncle who was paralyzed a number of years ago and is no longer able to make the trek himself. Moncada walked from Albuquerque, New Mexico to have his rosary and the staff blessed at El Santuario de Chimayo during Holy Week. (AP Photo/Jeremy Wade Shockley) RIGHT: Rose Marie Swanson prays at the courtyard entrance of El Santuario de Chimayo, Thursday, April17, 2014, having made the pilgrimage north from Santa Fe earlier that day. Pilgrims may take a small amount of Holy Dirt, believed to have healing powers, from “el pocito” or “the little well” inside El Santuario. (AP Photo/Jeremy Wade Shockley)

Pilgrimage Chimayo

Pilgrimage Chimayo

Shyanne Hope Maestas, her father, Alvino Maestas, and his fiancée, Riza Wiseman, visit a hilltop shrine on the road from Nambé, New Mexico, to El Santuario de Chimayo.

Pilgrimage Chimayo

Pilgrimage Chimayo

Arthur "Low Low" Medina opens the door to LowLow’s Lowrider Art Gallery. Famed for his hand painted cars; Medina and his wife, Joan, founded the Española Lowrider Association. Contemporary Chicano culture runs deep in the Catholic communities surrounding El Santuario de Chimayo.

Pilgrimage Chimayo

Pilgrimage Chimayo

Instructions adorn the alcove wall beneath the Santuario, " Many visitors to the Santuario leave photos of thier loved ones please pray for those whose pictures you see here." (AP Photo/Jeremy Wade Shockley)

Pilgrimage Chimayo

Pilgrimage Chimayo

Local artists sell thier work on the road to Chimayo.

Pilgrimage Chimayo

Pilgrimage Chimayo

Dusk envelopes El Santuario de Chimayo, Thursday, April 17, 2014 as pilgrims begin to arrive on the church steps ahead of Good Friday. El Santuario de Chimayo, was built by the Spanish in 1816. AP Photo/Jeremy Wade Shockley

Faith and Forgiveness on the Road to Chimayo

Photography by Jeremy Wade Shockley

On Good Friday, hundreds of pilgrims fill the plaza of El Santuario de Chimayó, waiting for an opportunity to enter the small adobe church in Northern New Mexico. Some pray for relatives, others seek their own redemption. Many seek a miracle. 

It is said that the earth under this historic church is sacred ground, imbued with healing properties. These properties, and attributed miracles of physical healing, have been drawing the faithful to this community chapel for over a century. Early Chimayo settler, Don Bernardo Abeyta, first built the Santuario’s thick adobe walls in 1816. Each spring pilgrims make the annual pilgrimage to this holy site, breathing life into the small community. Some trek for days, traveling from as far off as Albuquerque, or Santa Fe on foot. Others make their way up the road from the neighboring town of Española.

The common thread for these Catholic devotees, peppering the blacktop roads leading to Chimayo, is the desire to pay tribute to their beliefs, upholding a long-standing tradition of spiritual devotion and sacrifice. Some carry crosses, others a rosary between their fingers. They pray for family members, they pray for their elders, they pray for sick children and the incarcerated.

The annual pilgrimage represents a cross section of Hispanic and Native American cultures that are deep-rooted in New Mexico’s history. I believe that each of these families, each of these pilgrims, has their own story to tell; fueling their resolve to return to these roads each year, which lead across the high desert and into Chimayo.

 

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