Pilgrams walk along the highway to Chimayó in 2012. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com
SANTA FE – The highways and roads that lead to the village of Chimayó, New Mexico will be crowded next week as thousands of people begin their pilgrimage to el Santuario de Chimayó.
The largest crowds will be seen on Good Friday, March 29, but road congestion and minor delays can be expected any time in this area during Holy Week, the week before Easter Sunday.
“Generations of New Mexicans have participated in the Holy Week pilgrimage to Chimayó and over the years this tradition has grown to include visitors to New Mexico as well,” said NMDOT District Five Engineer Miguel Gabaldon. “With the large number of pedestrians making the pilgrimage along our highways, we ask that everyone travelling during this time drive safely and that everyone exercise caution while driving or walking along any route to Chimayó.”
NMDOT District Five maintenance crews have begun sweeping operations and are preparing safe walking areas along U.S. Highway 84/285, NM 502, N.M. 503, and N.M. 76.
Electronic message boards and other traffic signs will be placed along these routes to alert motorists to the expected large number of pedestrians on the road.
NMDOT maintenance crews will place trash receptacles along the roads and portable lighting structures will be stationed at strategic locations to aid night-time walkers.
The regulation against roadside vending on the highway right-of-way will be strictly enforced to protect the safety of pilgrims and motorists. Parking on Juan Medina Road in Chimayó will not be allowed. No open burning is permitted due to extreme wildfire danger.
Law enforcement and emergency responders will patrol all areas of the pilgrimage to enhance overall safety. Twenty-six local, state, federal and tribal agencies have been involved in planning and preparation for emergencies that might arise during the pilgrimage.
Planning is being coordinated by the Emergency Management Offices of Rio Arriba and Santa Fe Counties and the New Mexico Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.
About 30 minutes north of Santa Fe, New Mexico, in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo mountains, lies the tiny community of Chimayó.
Chimayó was founded near the end of the 17th century by Spanish settlers in a fertile valley nourished by the Santa Cruz River and protected by the surrounding foothills.
The settlers became experts in farming, stock raising and wool weaving. To protect themselves from the threats inherent in a frontier life they created the fortified plaza of San Buenaventura (now the Plaza del Cerro). It is the last surviving fortified plaza in the United States.
The descendants of those early settlers are still expert in many of the traditions for which Chimayó became famous, including its high-quality weaving, red chile, horse and sheep raising, and fruit orchards.
Chimayó is also famous for traditional Hispanic and Tewa Indian arts including wood carving, paintings of saints on retablos (flat wood slabs) and bultos (sculptures), tin working, colcha embriodery, and pottery.
Chimayó is also believed by many to be the site of a miracle which occurred about 200 years ago.
Miraculous healings are believed to have occurred at the site where a wooden crucifix was unearthed. Because of this a chapel was built in 1816 called el Santuario de Nuestro Señor de Esquipulas.
This chapel, now commonly called el Santuario de Chimayó, is the destination of thousands of pilgrims and travellers each year who come for various reasons; some hoping to be healed, some simply for curiousity, and some hoping to be restored spiritually by the tranquility and hospitality of the surroundings.
Many believers in the Santo Niño de Atocha also come to Chimayó. In the beginning of World War II many New Mexico soldiers were stationed in the Phillipines because of their fluency in Spanish.
During the long siege of Corregidor and the subsequent Bataan Death March many of our soldiers prayed to the Santo Niño de Atocha and many believed that they survived as a result of his intercession.
After the war these soldiers began the annual Easter tradition of walking to el Santuario de Chimayó in honor of the Santo Niño de Atocha and in memory of the Bataan Death March.
The tradition flourished, and in the days leading up to Easter the roads and paths in north-central New Mexico are filled with people young and old making the journey on foot.
For many, Chimayó is the starting point and most important stop on the High Road to Taos, the breathtaking trip that begins at the Rio Grande river and winds through high alpine forests of dark ponderosa pine and golden aspen and tiny, ancient adobe communities nestled in the Sangre de Cristo mountains. The journey ends in the skiing and art community of Taos.