Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Curative Sand

Thirty miles north of Santa Fe, New Mexico stands El Santuario (The Shrine) de Chimayó.

The area around Chimayo is marked by arid hills, but this silvery growth was a colorful addition.

Approaching the Shrine, we walked past a chain link fence with makeshift crosses placed in the fence, some with names of the people they are meant to commemorate; others hurriedly constructed and nameless.

Nearby, rows of seats were arranged around an outdoor altar.

Stones, some with messages written on them, were placed on the altar. Other items of importance to worshippers were arranged on the altar.

These arches, representing the seven days of Creation, easily blended into the background, in contrast to the significance that they represented.

Visitors to El Santuario de Chimayó, also called "The Lourdes of America," seek miraculous cures. Sometime around 1810, a Chimayo friar 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. The Chimayo Shrine was built on the site of that hole in 1816, but the curative powers of the crucifix have been overshadowed by El Posito, the "sacred sand pit" at the back of the chapel. There is a round hole in the floor, through which people scoop out some of the sand to carry with them, rub all over themselves, or eat because of its curative powers.

El Santuario attracts nearly 300,000 visitors each year.

Near the Shrine are a museum, a gift shop, restaurants, such as the Peregrino Cafe, and

shops, such as the Potrero Trading Post. We believe that the peppers hanging along the roof lines are the (trademark-pending) Chimayo peppers.

We left the little village with a couple of postcards, some chili powder, and some green chilis.

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