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Chimayo: Off the beaten path

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By Jennifer Garcia

During Lent and particularly during Holy Week, thousands of pilgrims flock to El Santuario de Chimayó to profess their faith, do penance, or ask for help with various medical and personal issues.
According to the Archdiocese of Santa Fe’s Web site, “El Santuario has been called the ‘Lourdes of America.’ No one seems to know exactly how this came about. However, there are testimonies that the extraordinary has occurred. Fr. Sebastian Alvarez in his letter to the Episcopal See of Durango, dated Nov. l6, l8l3, expressed his feelings of the people coming from afar to seek cures for their ailments and the spreading of the fame of their cures, induced many more faithful to come in pilgrimage. El Santuario has been a place of worship from the beginning — a place to pray, to thank, to ask, to meditate and to experience peace of mind as well as of body.”
The shrine was built between 1814 and 1816, after a “miraculous” crucifix was found in 1810.
“There is no written testimony concerning the apparition of Our Lord in the Chimayo area. What we have is tradition passed from one generation to another by the people of El Potrero. Here is one account of a “true” story as told by the storyteller,” according to the Web site.
“One tradition recalls that during Holy Week on the night of Good Friday, Don Bernardo Abeyta, who was a member in good standing of the Hermandad de Nuestro Padre Jesús el Nazareno (Penitentes) was performing the customary penances of the Society around the hills of El Potrero. Suddenly, he saw a light springing from one of the slopes of the hills near the Santa Cruz River. Don Bernardo went to the spot and noticed that the shining light was coming from the ground. He started to dig with his bare hands, and there he found a crucifix. He left it there and called the neighbors to come and venerate the precious finding. A group of men was sent to notify the priest, Fr. Sebastian Alvarez at Santa Cruz.
“Upon hearing the extraordinary news, the priest and people set out for Chimayó. When they arrived at the place where the Crucifix was, Fr. Sebastian picked it up and carried it in a joyful procession back to the church. Once in the church, the crucifix was placed in the niche of the main altar.
“The next morning, the crucifix was gone, only to be found in its original location. A second procession was organized and the crucifix was returned to Santa Cruz, but once again it disappeared, The same thing happened a third time. By then, everyone understood that El Sefior de Esquipulas wanted to remain in Chimayó, and so a small chapel was built.”
One of the popular draws of the chapel is the hole inside the church that’s filled with dirt, which is said to have healing qualities. Pilgrims and visitors alike often visit the chapel and take a bit of the dirt with them when they leave. In fact, the gift shop located next door to the chapel sells holy dirt containers for that purpose, as well as various other religious articles.
For those of faith, El Santuario probably is the most popular place to visit in Chimayó, but there’s more to the small community nestled between Truchas and Española, on the High Road to Taos. Another big attraction to the area is Rancho de Chimayó, a restaurant, gallery and hacienda that serves native New Mexican dishes.
The restaurant celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2005 and continues to serve favorites such as enchiladas, burritos, carne adovada and a variety of other offerings. Patrons can either dine inside or outside, when the weather is nice. The restaurant also features a bar.
Another restaurant serves native New Mexican dishes and is located right next door to El Santuario. Though it primarily serves take-out food, Leona’s features a few tables and chairs inside the restaurant, as well. Traditional favorites such as Frito pies, nachos, carne adovada, posole and hand-held burritos are just a few of the offerings. They also sell biscochitos, panocha and a variety of other local favorites.
Chimayó is also rich in the arts. There are several artists who have galleries in the area. The art featured ranges from pottery to retablos, weavings and traditional New Mexican art, as well as non-traditional art. Some artists invite the public to visit their studios, as well.
Some of the galleries in the Chimayó area include: Theresa’s Art Gallery and Studio; Ortiz Gallery, Chimayó Trading and Mercantile; Oviedo Carvings and Bronze; Galería Ortega; Rancho de Chimayó Collection Galeria; Low Low’s Lowrider Art Place; Santo Niño Gallery and El Potrero Trading Post.
Visitors may stop in at the following artists’ studios: Studio of Diana Bryer; Ellen Chavez de Leitner Arts and Acequia Madres Studio.
There also are a few fiber arts studios in the area: Trujillo’s Weaving Shop; Centinela Traditional Arts; Ortega’s Weaving Shop and Los Vigiles Living Traditions Fiber Studio and Supply.
The community of Chimayó also offers a few places to rest when traveling: Casa Escondida Bed and Breakfast; El Mesón de la Centinela; Rancho de Manzana Bed and Breakfast; and Rancho de Chimayó Hacienda.
For a map of the galleries and studios, visit http://chimayo.us/Map.html.

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Finding your way

• Starting in Los Alamos, on Trinity Dr., go toward
20th St. — go 1.0 mile
• Continue on East Road (N.M. 502) — go 2.3 miles
• Continue to follow N.M. 502 — go 14.1 miles
• Make a U-Turn at Cities of Gold Road, onto
N.M. 502 W
• Take ramp onto U.S. 84 N toward N.M. 285 N/
N.M. 84 N — go 0.4 miles
• Turn right on N.M. 503 — go 7.6 miles
• Turn left on Juan Medina Road (CR 98) —
go 3.6 miles
• Turn left on N.M. 76 — go 0.4 miles
• Arrive at the center of Chimayó, N.M.

— Yahoo maps