Faith and forgiveness on the road to Chimayo

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, travelling 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. 

NOTE: This essay was originally photographed on assignment for the Associated Press and New Mexico Magazine respectively. Photos credited to the AP must be licensed through the Associated Press, the other works can be licensed directly from the photographer. 

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