If you ever travel to the Santa Fe area of New Mexico, it would be well worth your time to visit the Santuario de Chamayo. It was almost an ethereal experience for me. There is no doubt that something special, spiritual and magical is present and will touch the open hearts, minds and souls of those who visit.
A traditionally styled southwestern adobe chapel was completed by the community effort of Bernardo Abeyta and the residents of El Potrero in 1816. It was constructed in honor of Nuestro Senor de Esquipulas. Up until 1929 the Santuario remained in the Abeyta family. The reason the Abeyta family and the El Potrero community wanted to do such a thing was because of what they considered to be miraculous events.
After performing penances, a friar witnessed a light burst forth from the ground near the Santa Cruz River. Digging in the sand, he discovered a crucifix that would be christened Nuestro Senor de Esquipulas (Our Lord of Esquipulas). On three separate occasions the crucifix was paraded to the nearby village only to disappear and be found again within the same hole. The people accepted that the crucifix desired to remain in Chamayo and erected a chapel there in its honor. It did not take long for miraculous healing events to take place.
In 1929 private citizens purchased the chapel from the Abeyta family and gave it to the Catholic Archdiocese of Santa Fe, New Mexico. The crucifix remains in the new Santuario that replaced the old chapel in the same sandy hole where it was originally discovered. The locals consider the supernatural power to not be within the crucifix but, rather, in the “tierra bendita” or, “blessed earth”. Visitors are allowed to enter the “dirt room” and remove a bit of the sand surrounding the crucifix. It is commonly eaten, dissolved in water to drink, or made into a paste that can be applied to an afflicted body part.
The gringa must admit to claiming a bit of the blessed earth for herself. My intention was to return home and, after a time of contemplation, I was going to apply some of it to my head and drink some in a cup of herbal tea. My hope was to be cured of my epilepsy. However, I have felt too reverently toward this bit of sand I have encased in a crystal container from Israel. I can’t decide exactly why I feel I shouldn’t do it, but I trust whatever my intuition is telling me. Maybe one day, but not today.
Local legends of the Native Americans claim this site was once a Native American shrine and holy place. It is thought that the sand pit containing the crucifix is what remains from a pool that once existed and was fed by hot springs known for their curative powers within the water and mud.
Adjacent to the “dirt room” in the chapel is another room that contained at the time of my visit about sixty or seventy pairs of crutches hanging about on one wall. Reportedly they belonged to people who entered the dirt room upon them and no longer needed them when they exited after using the blessed earth. Another wall in this room is covered with photos of people who were healed here. They number in the thousands. It is astounding.
For those with loved ones unable to travel and put their faith to the test and be healed, the amazing thing is that thousands of testimonies have reported healings over long distances through the power of prayer at this location. The grounds have a beautiful garden decorated with Madonnas and crucifixes from all over the world. My favorites were a Vietnamese Madonna and child and a wooden crucifix of carved rosettes. Surrounding this magnificent garden array are multiple altars and chapels as well as make shift shrines created by visitors over time. They are adorned with candles, rosaries and hand made crosses and all feature photos of loved ones who are prayed for to receive healing no matter how far away they may be.
One beautiful stone altar was full of rosaries and candles placed there by visitors who were praying for healing of themselves or loved ones. An outdoor chapel had thousands upon thousands of photos. It was astonishing. The Santuario is very accommodating to visitors. The most common areas are filled with photographs making it necessary to improvise new shrines within the grounds. Permission is also given upon request to place a cross on the fence surrounding the parking area so loved ones can continue to receive prayers for healing. Many of these crosses were handmade out of sticks and twigs tied together with grasses picked up from the sanctuary grounds, thus considered as blessed as the soil surrounding the famous crucifix. Throughout the Garden were more elaborate and larger crosses visitors had erected for loved ones. These beautiful testimonies bordered the parking lot at the very edge of the Sanctuario.
Today the Santuario is served by the Sons of the Holy Family who also serve in Silver Spring, Maryland, in Spain, Italy, Mexico and various South American countries. The Holy Family Parish faithfully tends to the needs of the tens of thousands of visitors who arrive every year searching for a healing miracle.