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Santuario de Chimayo

Somewhere around 1810, a Chimayo 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 Chimayo, 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 Chimayo Shrine -- an adobe mission -- in 1816.

El Santuario de Chimayo is now known (at least locally) as the "Lourdes of America." The crucifix 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, which gapes unheavenly behind the main altar. Over 300,000 people visit this dustbin o' heaven every year. The Prayer Room, which is located in the sacristy of the church (next to the pit), is filled with discarded crutches, braces, and scary, handmade shrines that look more voodoo than Catholic.

Chimayo has long been credited with miraculous healing properties; some argue it is the land itself, in that particular spot, that provides a physical healing to those that come. Others argue it is the spring water that bubbles up from subterranean levels that possesses the "power of healing". As such, a modern day gift shop adjacent to the old mission, which was built over the very spot the natives held sacred, sells bottles which can be filled with "holy" dirt and "holy" water, both found within the walls of the mission church. Tourists and the afflicted from across the world visit the site every day in hopes of finding miracles to address their worst and most desperate health needs. The Catholic faithful, of course, say it is "faith" in combination with the water or dirt that actually possesses the power to heal those in need. But despite your particular beliefs, there is de facto evidence inside the church itself to support the claims.

A room adjacent to the Worship Hall is filled with discarded crutches, wheelchairs and assorted other paraphernalia left behind by pilgrims who claim they have found the healing they sought within the confines of the old church walls. There are stories and documented testimonials from literally thousands, some disabled since birth, that testify to the healing properties of this special place. Amazingly enough, one Santa Fe resident may have schemed himself out of an insurance fraud conviction! Claiming severe neck and back injuries due to a car accident, the individual received insurance money and later visited Chimayo to be completely cured.

Photograph by Richard Dutton


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