Sean and Mittie | Chimayó


El Santuario de Chimayó, in Chimayó, New Mexico, is considered the most significant Catholic pilgrimage site in the United States. It receives nearly three hundred thousand visitors a year, but it’s not you’re your average church. Chimayó has a rich and complex history, involving many different cultures and beliefs; and both from a cultural and a marketing standpoint, it’s fascinating.

Sean Reagan Photography
Chimayó is about half an hour outside Santa Fe and only accessible by car. Upon arriving with our friend Javier, we parked and walked down a chain link fence lined with twig crosses leading to a wall of photos petitioning miracles, a common theme at the site. Petitions may appear in the form of crutches, children’s shoes or rocks with messages printed on them.

Sean Reagan Photography 
The adobe Santuario is enclosed. Inside there is a prayer room full of strange (and somewhat morbid) relics, and it’s not clear which are requests for divine assistance and which are homages for the dead. Inside one small room is el pocito, the “little well” where a small pit of “holy dirt” is located. Everyday people take dirt from the well and every morning it’s full again. Superstition says that the burying of a crucifix in that exact spot gives the dirt it’s magical, healing properties.

Sean Reagan Photography 
Culturally, it’s quite interesting as well. There are two Vietnamese Virgin Mary statues, honoring a sighting of the Virgin Mary in Santa Fe Museums Vietnam. There is also a Native American chapel with images of famous chiefs,
placing them in the image of the last supper surrounding Jesus instead of the traditionally depicted disciples. Also, there is a chapel dedicated to Adam and Eve where Eve is carrying a healthy baby in her arms and smiling. Not only have I never seen a chapel dedicated to the original couple, but I have certainly never seen any expression of Eve in which she isn’t demonized.

Sean Regan Photography
Strange cultural juxtapositions aren’t the only things Chimayó has to offer, though. From a marketing perspective, it’s maximized the traffic of the site, adding a few gift shops, art galleries and a restaurant. Considering there’s nothing for miles around, people who come to sanctuary are likely to eat a bite and shop a bit. Even their map is a bit cartoonish with a prominent logo. Who said religion can’t also be business? Certainly not America!

Share your thoughts on Chimayó in the comments below!


Mittie Roger has been blogging for 5 years; her blog focuses on off the beaten path travel in the Americas. Both a blogger and a social media consultant, Mittie works with writers, brands, and artists of many mediums. Her first book of short stories, Aurora, was published in December of 2013 after its title story, “Aurora”, received second place in the 2012 Richard Bausch contest. Her fiction has also appeared in Our Stories and Monkey Puzzle Literary Magazine and her non-fiction has appeared in Land Rover Magazine, Land Rover Monthly and Fuse. Her most recent publication, These Boots Are Made for Walking: Travel Journal and Workbook, uses creative prompts to get you thinking differently, traveling more and experiencing life.

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