Legend has it that in the early 1800s, a traveler stopped by a shady stream in the dramatic low canyon formations three days’ walk north of Santa Fe, and there he unearthed a large wooden cross.
After a series of supernatural events, word began to spread about the mysterious occurrences there, and before long, a small church was built where the crucifix was originally found. From that time until now, miraculous healings have been reported by countless visitors to that little church and the magical little town by the Santa Cruz River, known as Chimayo (chee-my-oh).
Now known as the Lourdes of the Southwest, El Santuario de Chimayó, the tiny chapel built there almost 200 years ago, is a popular attraction drawing thousands each year. Crutches left behind by pilgrims line the walls of a small room next to the chapel, where visitors are invited to take home a scoop of the “holy dirt” believed by the faithful to have the power to heal both body and soul.
Chimayo is also well known for its artisans, particularly the Ortega and Trujillo families of weavers. For several generations, their Spanish Colonial style of weaving has been prized by collectors. Much of the popular folk art of northern New Mexico known as retablos—religious figures carved in wood and painted on tin—also comes from Chimayo.
Still another reason to visit Chimayo is the Capsicum annum “Chimayo,” a native chile that has been growing here for over 300 years. Its heirloom seed was patented in 2009, and is now being preserved by an agricultural heritage program.
Chimayo chile is what gives northern New Mexico cuisine its distinctive flavor, and there is no better place to savor this pungent spice than Rancho de Chimayo, one of the oldest and best loved restaurants in the Santa Fe area. To make the pilgrimage to Chimayo and not stop for lunch at this restaurant is, at least to some of us, sacrilegious! Packages of chile powder can be purchased at Rancho de Chimayo and in several shops along the village streets of Chimayo.
A roundtrip to Chimayo and back to Santa Fe costs $325 + tax and takes 4-5 hours.
For more information, check out these links:
Santuario de Chimayo:
Rancho de Chimayo Restaurant: