The streets of the community of El Potrero, located near Chimayó, fill every Holy Week with as many as 40,000 faithful pilgrims making their journey to El Santuario de Chimayó. The santuario itself is modest, yet elegant, famed around the world for the healing power of the dirt found beneath the chapel.
Legend has it in 1810 a local friar witnessed light shining from a hillside and discovered that a crucifix buried in the dirt was the source of the light. After taking the crucifix to a neighboring town, on three separate occasions it went missing, only to be found again in its original location. It was decided that the crucifix was to stay in El Potrero, and the chapel was built there. Miraculous healings have been attributed to the dirt where the crucifix was found over centuries and to this day visitors swear by its powers.
To learn more about the fascinating history of the little chapel, the surrounding area and its Spanish influence, pay a visit to the Chimayó Museum, a humble museum with a big story to tell. The local patrons who care for the museum and preserve the past of the community are a wealth of knowledge and are eager to share it with visitors.
Another gem well worth a visit is El Potrero Trading Post, which is filled with local treasures. The heavenly smells wafting through the post hint at an abundant variety of chile to choose from; ground, crushed, sundried, red, green, heritage and standard. The trading post also features Milagros, small metal religious charms. The Spanish word milagro means “miracle.” These charms are often used as offerings, nailed or pinned to sacred objects and also act as good luck charms for pilgrims.
Ortega’s Weaving Shop spans eight generations in the Chimayó weaving tradition. (Photo courtesy of Santa Fe County)
The Chimayó community is thriving with artists and craftspeople whose skills were inherited from past generations. The weavings found in Chimayó are especially one-of-a-kind and range from wool rugs, blankets and pillows to handbags, vests and much more. Ortega’s Weaving Shop is the essence of exquisite Chimayó weaving that has been a family tradition for eight generations. The scent of the natural fibers, the creaking of the hardwood floor and the flawlessly crafted weavings make Ortega’s an excellent stop. You might even get lucky and catch one of the weavers working on their loom.
For a taste of the local culture, Gabriel’s is an excellent stop on the drive back from Chimayó. With its colorful courtyard tables, mouthwatering fajitas, and tableside guacamole with just enough jalapeño to give it a little kick, Gabriel’s is considered one of the best Mexican and Southwestern restaurants in New Mexico. For dessert, don’t pass up the sopapillas; fluffy pillows of goodness drizzled with a little (or a lot) of honey.
Visiting Chimayó and the surrounding area this year will allow you to take in some of the area’s most beautiful scenery and historical sites. Chimayó and the surrounding area is just a short 40-minute drive from Santa Fe.
This blog was written in partnership with Santa Fe County.