When you talk about places of great mystical power... then surely the tiny mountain village of Chimayo, thirty miles north of Santa Fe New Mexico,
should be on your top ten list.
Pronounced (Chim), as Chimney, (My) as in Myself and (O) as in, 'Oh' no you didn't!
People from all over the world come to this holy place, the sick the lame, the devout. Some come on crutches, in wheelchairs or supported in the arms
of worried yet hopeful loved ones. They come here to kneel upon, to touch and sometime eat the sacred earth of Chimayo.
Then they raise, healed, healthy, hearty and whole, restored and made strong again in faith and body. This is no mere myth, it has happened time and
time again, as the canes and crutches hanging from the walls of the Santuario de Chimayo attest to that fact!
This secluded little valley tucked away in the Sangre De Cristo Mountains has always been a special place, one of magic and mystery, hope and renewed
life. Long before the first Spanish settlers arrived, (1701) and long before the sanctuary was built (1816) This place goes back to the creation myths
of the Tewa people, the local Native Americans.
Back in in a time of prehistory... when the Twin War Brothers slew the evil giant Yeitso, causing fire, smoke and boiling water to erupt from the
ground. Those great geysers becoming New Mexico's steaming hot springs.
Most of you reading this already know of the medicinal nature of hot springs. The Tewa people certainly did and for countless generations they came
here to soak and breath in the vapors of the steaming mineral springs.
The Tewa word for “Pool” of water is (pok-wi) and this pool they named (Tsimajopkwi). Later, when the pool dried up the name was changed to
(Tsimayo) Later still the Spanish settlers called it Chimayo.
The creation of the Santuario de Chimayo begins with a man named “Bernardo Abeyta” And to tell you about Bernardo I have to tell you about a group
of zealots who have frankly scared the crap out of me since I was a kid! I'm talking about the kind of freaky-deeks that would give author Dan Brown
a woody! And when I was about eleven years old my dad took me down to San Rafael to see for myself what the Penitentes did... Afterward I had
nightmares for several years.
You see, by all accounts Bernardo Abeyta, was a pratcing member of Los Hermanos Penitentes del Tercer orden de Franciscanos (The Brotherhood of the
The Penitentes go back at least as far as the 13th century, when organized societies of flagellants in Europe flogged themselves to appease a
wrathful God who had brought the Black Plague down upon the less faithful. Just like the albino in the Dan Brown movie who liked to whip himself.
Well ... Penitentes take things a bit further.
Every Good Friday they perform a literal reenactment of the biblical Crucifixion! Nowadays they have to do it in secret, but sure enough, every year
one particularly devout Penitente will volunteer to be staked threw his hands and feet, impaled, upon an upright cross. I will not go into detail as
to what they do with cactus studded whips or how women will fill their shoes with more cactus spines for the long painful procession up a hill
following the three Penitente brothers who lug a heavy wooden cross.
What I will say however, is they believe if the volunteer survives his ordeal he becomes revered and within the Penitentes, he becomes a politically
powerful person. If on the other hand he dies, he has earned his place in heaven, not just for himself but all the members of his family as well.
Are you beginning to see why I said Dan Brown would love these guys?
Moving on... Bernardo Abeyta, Penitente, and it probably occurred during holy week in 1813. started the modern legend of Chimayo ...
So there's old Bernardo Abeyta whip in hand performing his penances on a hillside just above the Rio Santa Cruz. Somewhere between self-inflected
lashes he looks up and see's a light shining from the ground not far from the river.
He rushes over, kneels and starts digging with his bare hands. Within minutes he has uncovered a large and wondrous cross baring the image of Our
Lord of Esquipulas!
This is the part where things get strange... you see the cross Bernardo had found bore the image of Nuestro Senor de Esquipulas AKA the Black Christ
of Guatemala. The town of Esquipulas is over 2,000 miles away from Chimayo and in 1813 it was very unlikely ether town knew of the other existence!
But maybe... you see the legend of the Black Christ and his miraculous cures at the massive baroque in Esquipulas predate Chimayo by more than 300
years... sooo maybe this wasn't a complete coincidence?
Anyway... Bernardo takes his amazing discovery to one Father Sebastian Alvarez who quickly organized a procession to deliver and place the crucifix in
the church at Santa Cruz a few miles away. They put in in a place of honor, in a niche above the main alter ...and all was well... until the very next
morning they found it had vanished?
To paraphrase the official version... the congregation flipped the 'F' out!... Until good ole Bernardo happens to find the missing crucifix right
back in the same hole he found it. So another procession was formed and the crucifix redelivered back to the church in Santa Cruz.
Sure enough the very next morning Our Lord of Esquipulas had mystically made his way back to the hole, not just twice but when it happened a third
time, everyone agreed the crucifix did not want to be moved, period... thus ground was broken on what would be the tiny chapel to be named the
Santuario de Chimayo
The disappearing, reappearing act of the cross may have been the first miracle, but it would certainly not be the last.
A short time later, Bernardo, gravely ill, probably from flogging himself with cactus spine embed whips, drags his butt out of bed and makes his way
to the chapel. As he nears the holy place he sees the figure of Our Lord of Esquipulas beckoning him to come closer. Staggering forward the
apparition vanishes and when Bernardo falls on the very spot where the figure had stood, he is instantly healed!
And thus we have the first of many well recorded miraculous cures at the Santuario de Chimayo...
Now surely any small mountain village would be proud to have such a renowned religious icon to call their own, but Chimayo has not 'One but 'Two
Story continued below in second post