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Mud contained in a hole at the Nuestro Señor de Esquí pulas church in Santa Fe, New Mexico, has healing powers, according to many Christians. Getty Images.

Chimayo (New Mexico)

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Almost due north of Santa Fe, New Mexico, the village of Chimayo lies in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Far from a major highway, it is nevertheless the destination of thousands of pilgrims annually, many of whom seek out a church named Nuestro Señor de Esquípulas. Inside the small chapel, they make their way to an even smaller room adjacent to the altar, where there is a hole filled with mud, the object of their pilgrimage. The mud is smeared on the body in the hope of bringing relief to the body, mind, and/or spirit of the devout believers. Elsewhere in the church are numerous objects, including crutches and braces, left behind by people as a record of their cure.

The petition to erect the chapel at Chimayo was granted in 1818. It is a modest adobe structure surrounded by an adobe wall. It was a privately owned chapel until the 1920s, when the owners ran into severe financial problems. The Roman Catholic Church purchased and currently maintains it.

The site has been related to a similar site in Esquípulas, Guatemala, where a parallel tradition of healing earth had led to the emergence of a church known locally for the healings that occur there. It appears that at the beginning of the nineteenth century, someone from Chimayo traveled to Guatemala, evidenced by the presence of a uniquely shaped wooden cross at both sites.

The healing earth of Chimayo had been known and venerated for centuries before Spaniards brought Christianity to the region in the sixteenth century. It is possible that the region was geologically active in relatively recent times and that the mud hole is the site of a former geyser. There are a variety of stories about the recognition of the mud as a healing substance, all the product of an oral culture, many contradictory in content.

Whatever the truth hidden in the various stories might be, today pilgrims come to gather small amounts of the mud. Some immediately apply it to their body or ingest it. Others carry it away for use back at home. Each evening, those who tend to the chapel refill the hole with dirt from nearby land, a fact not widely advertised. The largest number of pilgrims come during Holy Week when, besides visiting the chapel, they may also view a passion play recounting the life of Christ.


de Borhegyi, Stephen F. “The Miraculous Shrines of Our Lord of Esquipulas in Guatemala and Chimayó, New Mexico.” El Palacio 61, 12 (Dec. 1954): 387–401.
Trento, Salvatore. Field Guide to Mysterious Places of the West. Boulder, CO: Pruett Publishing Company, 1994.
The Encyclopedia of Religious Phenomena © 2008 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Or you can stargaze over the haute Southwestern fare at Chimayo ($$$$; 368 Main; 435/649-6222).
Her hand-dyed, handwoven textiles are stellar examples of the region's traditional Navajo, Rio Grande, and Chimayo styles of weaving.
Don't make us choose between the roasted zucchini and green chile and the traditional red pork chile from this company in Chimayo, New Mexico.
Off-season, the High Road from Santa Fe to Taos--State 76 and 518--which weaves through the villages of Chimayo, Truchas, and Las Trampas, seems as drowsy and lonely as the New Mexico of a century past.
First stop is Chimayo. With its venerable cottonwood bultos (statues) of San Rafael and San Jose, the recently restored Santuario de Chimayo church (Santuario Rd.; 505/351-4889) is a 188-year-old source of artistic inspiration.
Plump bags of pure dried red chilies, both Hatch and Chimayo, tempt buyers to stock up for the winter.
At noon on a quiet Sunday in northern New Mexico, villagers gather at El Santuario de Chimayo to pray before a 19th-century gold-leaf altar imported from Mexico.
Rancho Manzana: Lavender Festival 12-5 July 20-Aug 2; otherwise, accessible when a guest at this B&B; Chimayo; (888) 505-2227.
Molesworth is best known for Douglas fir peeled-pole furniture featuring bright red Chimayo Indian weavings and carved or routed representations of Western images such as bison, tepees, and bowlegged cowboys.
Mobilization of arsenic in a shallow groundwater aquifer due to C[O.sub.2] leakage has been investigated at one of the natural analog sites, Chimayo, New Mexico, where C[O.sub.2]-saturated brackish water was leaked into the shallow aquifer along the fault [7, 13, 24, 25].
Francis restaurant--is serving up Chimayo chile-marinated meat and a bright salad of Arizona-grown citrus.