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Holy Week tradition

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By Carol A. Clark

El Santuario de Chimayo is the holy shrine in Chimayo that is the destination of thousands of pilgrims and tourists annually, particularly during the Holy Week culminating in Easter Sunday.

Los Alamos residents and owners of Daniel’s Cafe on Trinity Drive, Dan Sena and his wife Margie have made the pilgrimage on Good Friday for 20 years.

“Every year there’s someone to pray for and reasons to give thanks – it’s a special place,” Sena said.

“It was wonderful this year to have our three children, Nadette and her husband Eric, Jake and his wife Krystal, our daughter Adrienne and my in-laws all walk with us.”

The walk on Friday was cold and windy, Sena said, adding that there were three times more cars on the road than he had ever seen.

The added traffic was caused by the three-car accident that occurred on U.S. 84/285 near the route of the annual pilgrimage. Three people died in that crash, which authorities said did not include pilgrims.

Friday had additional meaning to many because it was the 10th anniversary of the deaths of Los Alamos High School students Ricky Martinez and Karen Castenon who were shot to death while on the walk to Chimayo.

“We walked for Ricky and Karen and it was very special,” Sena said. “We also walked to give thanks for our many blessings and for our daughter Nadette’s pregnancy. We felt some sadness this year because last year we were walking for my sister who was ill and she has since died. Also, we walked for my 99-year-old grandmother. She died about 2 a.m. Saturday. There are always special reasons and intentions for taking this walk.”  

El Santuario is called a place of tranquility, faith and hope.

The custody and care of El Santuario is delegated to the Sons of the Holy Family who also tend to the parish of Chimayo.

The small chapel was built almost 200 years ago on a site that is sacred to many Pueblo Indians and descendants of Spanish settlers.

The history of the church is that 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 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 in 1816.