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New Mexico Transportation Department’s maintenance and construction crews are preparing for safe walking areas along various New Mexico highways for the annual Good Friday Pilgrimage to the Santurario de Chimayó.
“This event has been a tradition for many generations, and the New Mexico Department of Transportation is working together with local entities to provide a safe walking area for this year’s event,” said Transportation Secretary Alvin Dominguez. “The Department is requesting both walkers and motorists exercise extreme caution so that everyone is able to safely participate in the annual pilgrimage.”
For those in Los Alamos, who wish to make the pilgrimage, they are asked to meet at Immaculate Heart of Mary or St. Joseph’s (White Rock) parking lot at 7 a.m., where they will carpool to Pojoaque to begin the walk.
In the past, up to 50 people from Los Alamos have made the trek to Chimayó.
The Transportation Department suggests pedestrians wear light-colored clothing or reflective gear during early morning and evening hours.
Local law enforcement will have a limited number of glow sticks for participants.
Maintenance crews have begun sweeping operations along typical routes to the Santurario.
Starting today, crews will continue to provide the various accommodations as they have in previous pilgrimages:
• There will be a right lane closure on U.S. 84/285 between Jct. N.M. 599 and the S. Tesuque
• Walkers will be guided to the on/off ramps at each interchange between Santa Fe and Cuyamungue.
• At the Cuyamungue Interchange, orange barrels and signage will guide the walkers away from the mainline and onto the east frontage road.
• Temporary stop signs will be placed at interchange locations to allow walkers to pass.
• Road construction on US 84/285 in the Arroyo Seco area is ongoing with construction activities taking place through Friday April 22, 2011, but accommodations for walkers will be maintained.
Additional signage and electronic message boards will be placed along parts of NM 76 and NM 503 to alert motorists of the high volume of pedestrians on the roadway.
Portable light plants will be placed in the area of the Pojoaque Wellness Center, and the intersections of NM 503 and CR 84 and NM 503 and CR 98 to provide additional lighting for those walking at night.
Law enforcement and emergency responders will patrol all areas of the pilgrimage to enhance overall safety of the event.
There will be trash receptacles along all traditional walking paths.
NMDOT strongly reminds walkers to deposit their trash properly. Maintenance crews will pick up and replace trash bags for the duration of the event.
According to the chapel website, this is how the pilgrimage began.
“Somewhere around 1810, a Chimayó 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 Chimayó, 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 Chimayó Shrine — an adobe mission — in 1816.
“Believed to be built on sacred earth with miraculous healing powers, the legendary shrine El Santuario de Chimayó, is probably the most visited church in New Mexico. The crucifix which began the original shrine 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.
“Each year during Holy Week thousands of people make a pilgrimage to Chimayó to visit the Santuario and take away a bit of the sacred dirt. Pilgrims walk a few yards or a hundred miles. Many claim to have been cured there of diseases, infirmities and unhappiness.
“The walls of the sacristy are hung with discarded crutches and before-and-after photographs as evidence of the healing.”