By Helena Rodriguez, PNT Staff Writer
This afternoon, an Eastern New Mexico University student, Daniela Garcia, will leave for Roswell, where she and her family will then drive to Chimayo, joining thousands of other pilgrims in the famous Good Friday pilgrimage.
Every year, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from around the world flock to the small Northern New Mexico town of Chimayo and faithfully walk a trek, with the Sangre de Cristo mountains as a backdrop. The trek ends at El Santuario, the site of a historic church built almost 200 years ago that is said to be sacred. El Santuario is best known for a “sacred sand pit” or El Posito, in which its grains of sand are believed to hold curative powers. The room housing the pit is surrounded with walkers, canes, and other symbols left on the walls following reported miracles and healings.
For Garcia, this Holy Week sacrifice is being done in thanksgiving for her mother, Alice Ramirez, who has made a remarkable and almost complete recovery in her battle against breast cancer.
“This is mostly in Thanksgiving, because my mother is doing well, but also, so she can continue to be healed,” said Garcia, a junior who is majoring in social work at Eastern. “Doctors said all of my mother’s hair would fall off, but it didn’t. She only lost her dead hair. Most of it stayed on. Doctors said they’ve never seen that happen,” Garcia said.
Garcia describes her 57-year-old mother as a church-going woman who has always clung to her faith, even during her battle with cancer. She said it was her younger brother, Caytano’s, idea to make the Good Friday walk to Chimayo.
“He wanted to go, to thank God for healing her and helping her to stay strong. And it is in Thanksgiving that she is still here,” she said. Garcia said her mom is a Head Start teacher in Roswell and she continues to work, going to her chemotherapy and radiation treatments in the morning, before she goes to work with the pre-schoolers.
Although Garcia is a native New Mexican, she said this past summer was the first time she and her family went to Chimayo. This week’s trip will be their first time, however, going to Chimayo during the Lenten season. Garcia, who was moved by her first trip there this summer, expects a more profound experience on Good Friday. For one thing, there will be a lot more people there this time of year.
“Lent is a more spiritual time and I know there will be different vibes, different people who will go for different reasons, looking to make sacrifices in their own ways,” Garcia said.
Another ENMU student, Beatriz Villa, who is from Belen, has participated in the Good Friday walk to Chimayo many times. Villa said, “It’s been something my entire family takes very seriously. There are no words to describe this place.”
Villa reports having seen people on Good Friday walking with crosses in hand, singing in groups, some occasionally walking barefoot and others walking from Albuquerque to Chimayo, in both good and bad weather.
“I grew up around the stories of miracles at Chimayo,” Villa said. Concerning the recent publicity the shrine has received by the major media, including The New York Times and TV networks, Villa said, “Miracles happened in Chimayo way before tourists started coming and they will keep on. It’s a beautiful place where families come together, with their faith in hand. It doesn’t matter if you’re Catholic or what religion you are. It is unifying!”