Winding roads and snow-covered mountaintops serenaded us as we moved along on our most recent trip to Taos, NM.
The high road to Taos seems like the most logical way to get to the small New Mexican town from Santa Fe. It’s about 70 miles and takes about and hour and a half to drive, if you don’t make any stops. The road is lined with native shrubbery, which is hugged by mountains and topped with fluffy southwest clouds. Tiny towns are scattered along the way, with typical scrappy stray dogs and meandering creeks to keep you company. It’s not necessarily a lively drive, but it is a pretty one.
Although we’ve traveled this road before, we never knew about the Santuario de Chimayò, which is just a few miles off the main road in the town of Chimayò. We are so glad we stopped to take a look.
In the early 1850’s, Severiano Medina, a Chimayò resident, became very ill. When he recovered, he made a pilgrimage to the shrine of Santo Niño de Atocha in the town of Plateros in Zacatecas, Mexico. He returned to Chimayo with a small, papier mâchè doll of Santo Niño, a manifestation of the Christ Child who is believed to have performed many miracles in Spain and Mexico. Out of thankfulness, he requested to build a chapel to house the doll, which was completed in 1857. Today this chapel, Santo Niño de ATOCHA still stands, and has been renovated into a children’s chapel. (No wonder we thought it was so cool!)
Indoor photographs are not allowed, but you can see photos here. The intricate carvings and whimsical paintings are as inspiring as an art gallery!
On the same property are many other buildings: little prayer rooms, other chapels…
The larger “shrine” (or chapel), is known for being the site of “el pocito”; a small pit of Holy Dirt which many people attribute as possessing remarkable curative powers. Over 30,000 people each year make the pilgrimage to this site in order to receive healing for themselves or a loved one.
When we first drove up, I noticed right away that all of the parking in the main parking lot was handicapped only. I thought it was weird…until I read more about the site and realized that thousands of sick people travel to el Santuario de Chimayó to be healed. Since photography is not allowed inside, I can only tell you that the walls were lined with baby shoes, family photographs and in one room near the holy dirt, abandoned crutches. These objects are left by the faithful, some with names and dates, some with notes of entreaty or thanks. The shoes are intended for the Holy Child so that he may have clean shoes as he travels on his journey to provide comfort to those in need; the crutches and canes a testament to healing.
Set against the Sangre de Cristo mountains outside of the chapel, there is space for outdoor services, as well as stone arches that house crosses upon which people have written prayers and attached stick crosses.
I’ve walked away from this specific part of our trip with an open eye toward faith, what that means to different people and how it is manifested. For the ones who oversee the Santuario de Chimayó, this is their perspective:
Many people come to Chimayó in search of miracles; some find them, some don”t. But they all share a love of God and believe that no matter what they have been told, God can and does work miracles. When he walked on the water, Jesus taught us that faith is a prerequisite to miracles, and he promised his disciples that wondrous things could be accomplished as long as their faith didn’t falter. Sometimes, however, the miracle is not the one that cures our tormented bodies; sometimes the miracle is faith itself.
I quite agree.
WEBSITES WITH FURTHER INFORMATION ABOUT PLACES MENTIONED ABOVE:
You can view a few more of my photos from the high road here: https://kineticheart.wordpress.com/2016/03/29/santuario-de-chimayo/