New Mexico is truly deserving of its title – “the land of enchantment.” With its deserts, mountains, plains of sage brush, and beautiful sunsets New Mexico is a land full of rapturous beauty. It also has a special place in my heart since my family has roots in New Mexico that stretch back all the way to when New Mexico was a colony of Spain.
Today, New Mexico’s Spanish colonial heritage and Catholic roots are still very much alive. New Mexico is home to many important Catholic chapels and shrines. One of the most famous Catholic shrines in New Mexico, and one of the most important Catholic pilgrimage centers in the United States is El Santuario de Chimayo.
El Santuario de Chimayo is located in the small village of Chimayo, which is located about an hour outside Santa Fe. El Santuario de Chimayo is known as “the Lourdes” of the United States, as it is known for its holy dirt, which is reputed to have healing powers. The healing properties of the dirt, and stories of miraculous healing have led many to make pilgrimages to this holy site.
There are many stories related to the origin of El Santuario de Chimayo. One story holds that during the nineteenth century Don Bernardo Abeyta, a resident of the area, saw a light shining from the local hillside. Curious as to the source of the light, Abeyta went to the hillside and dug up a crucifix. Abeyta turned over the crucifix to a Friar to bless it. Legend has it that the crucifix disappeared from the Friar’s possession and reappeared back at the spot that Abeyta found it. After this happened a third time, Abeyta and the Friar decided to build a chapel on the spot where the crucifix was found.
Today, the chapel is most known for its “holy dirt” room, where visitors are free to take some of this blessed dirt. As a little girl, I remember my grandma telling me stories about this church and about how people rubbed the dirt on whatever ailed them and found themselves cured. Outside the “holy dirt” room is a line of abandoned crutches, which people have left behind once they found themselves cured.
When I arrived at El Santuario, I felt an immediate sense of peace. The entire complex felt peaceful, even though many were traveling there to either pray for loved ones who are sick, or to leave relics of their loved ones in the form of pictures at this holy site. Even though there were a lot of tourists, a peaceful atmosphere still pervaded the chapel.
After spending an entire morning at El Santuario, the feeling of peace and calm I had stayed with me throughout the day. Visiting El Santuario de Chimayo was like entering another world. It is a place for the sick and the heartbroken, as well as those with faith and belief in miracles.