A New Mexican Holy Week

Santuario de Chimayo

Hints of the coming spring lined the driveway through our orchard. The southern exposed winter brown field grass turned green against the earth. Limbs on the  dormant apple trees bulged tight at the bud.  Spikes of future daffodils and tulips pushed their way through the cold soil. This is springtime magic announcing itself inside the southern Rocky Mountains.

On a Good Friday I drove to Albuquerque. Thousands of the faithful walked north along Interstate 25. They sought the healing miracles of the sacred sands within the Santuario de Chimayo in the village of Chimayo, nestled in a valley, lined in cottonwoods and pastures within the Sangre de Cristo Mountains 24 miles (38.4 km) north of Santa Fe. From Albuquerque, the distance nears 80 miles, but the distance is unimportant to those who make this annual trek.

Some pilgrims carried prayer signs for an ill relative. A few resurrected the Los Penitentes and  carried large wooden crucifixes. The line of the devout and the hopeful seemed endless. 

And along the Rio Grande banked pueblos, another show of renewed faith blended to the earth’s warming pulse where First Americans danced, chanted and sung to the Mother.

Daffodils push their way through the cold soil

An incredible power seeped through the high altitude air during the season. The immediate becomes the infinite as one witnesses feet, young and old, walking in faith or dancing in reverence juxtaposed with born-again trees flowering against still frozen high country that eventually melts to a grand river flowing parallel to the boundless sky.

I couldn’t help but feel a surge of spirituality encompass me. Spring rekindles memories of Lenten preparation for the mystery of the Christ’s resurrection on Easter Sunday. Twelve years of parochial school with weeks of scheduled fasting, denial of chosen pleasures (chocolate for me), three hours of silent contemplation on Good Friday, dutiful confessions to a mystery priest behind a screen, shopping for a new dress, hats and shoes to wear for Easter Sunday’s festivities that always began with Holy Mass performed on an altar bedecked in lilies, carnations and roses, a colorful flimsy basket to gather hidden eggs, to return to the house scented  with a roasting ham for a midday feast. 

And here I am so far removed from all that I knew growing up in the middle of California’s Mojave Desert. New Mexico’s people on this Good Friday reminded me to take the time to access Spring’s magic and faith, and keep it alive within.

—From a work-in-progress by Charmaine Coimbra

2 replies »

  1. Oh how the memories of Easter in Kansas came back while reading this! Only our Episcopalian version: I didn’t know any Episcopalian who would be seen carrying a cross (of any size) a sign publicly. It wasn’t even considered. Oh but the new dress, shoes, and bonnet! The dyed-pastel baby chicks who died the next day, no doubt from the dye.

    I love your term, born-again trees. Your prose has a poetic feel.

    N.

    >

    • Thank you, Nancy. The pilgrims who walk from all around the state to the Santuario de Chimayo on Good Friday is just amazing and inspirational–such unabashed faith. And the dances at the Pueblos are simply breathtaking in conversing with the Earth. And then when Passover, another very devotional time here in NM, is observed, well, it just took me by surprise and made me feel like a spiritual weakling.

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