NUESTRA VOZ DE NORTH TEXAS


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El Weekender

No 75

“A Holy Place”

Thousands of people that make the yearly pilgrimage to El Santuario de Chimayo around Good Friday every year would say Yes. Also, known as Nuestra Señor de Esquipulas is about 25 miles north of Santa Fe New Mexico. There are several stories/legends, and yes even miracles attributed to this place of worship. The following, is what I learned during my visit there and through their official website.

One thing we know for sure, this story has its roots in 13th century Spain in the city of Atocha, where Christian men were imprisoned by the Moors. The feeding of these men was left up to their families, and at first their wives, or mothers could handle this obligation. After a while though, fearing a possible insurrection, the Moors changed it to only their children 12 and under would be allowed in. This would become a major barrier to many of the men imprisoned, because they had no children of that age and the scarcity of food in general. Wives, and mothers were now feeling helpless and desperate to find a way to help their loved ones. So, they did the only they could do, they prayed to our Lady of intercession for help.

Soon after, they began hearing stories from some of the children permitted in about seeing an unknown boy feeding the prisoners. According to legend, he would bring in a gourd for water and loaves of bread, this must be the Christ child the ladies surmised. Their prayers had been answered by the Holy Mother, she had sent the Christ child to save their loved ones. How this legend, and beliefs came to Chimayo is best explained by the official information provided on the Chimayo website that shows Richard Riectenberg as the author. (See below)

Santo Niño reached New Mexico when Severiano Medina, a prominent member of the tiny village of El Potrero, became seriously ill and promised that, if he recovered, he would complete a pilgrimage to Plateros and the shrine of Santo Niño de Atocha. He carried out this promise and, unable to return with a statue, brought a papier mache doll of the Santo Niño instead. Immediately upon his return he received permission to construct a private chapel to house the doll. This chapel was built within a few hundred yards of El Santuario de Chimayo which had been built about 40 years earlier.

It was at this chapel, built by the Medina family, that the people of northern New Mexico learned about the Santo Niño and where the child became part of the culture of the northern Rio Grande Valley. By 1941, many of the 1,800 New Mexico National Guardsmen comprising the 200th Coast Artillery Regiment were familiar with the story of Santo Niño and some had visited the chapel in Chimayo. Stationed in the Philippines at the outset of WWII, they were the first to fire on the wave of Japanese fighter planes and bombers that attacked on 8 December 1941. They prayed to the Santo Niño as their supplies dwindled, as their numbers dwindled, and as they, and their Filipino compatriots, began the slow retreat across Luzon to the very tip of the Bataan Peninsula where they made their last stand. With no hope of victory or of aid from the decimated U.S. Pacific Fleet, they must have truly felt themselves "Los Desamparados". Finally, on 9 April, 1942, they surrendered, only to learn that their personal trials and torment had just begun. 75,000 American and Filipino troops began what is now known as the "Bataan Death March" to the prisoner-of-war (POW) camp, Camp O’Donnell. As many as 18,000 soldiers were murdered by the Japanese soldiers on this 61-mile march. The remainder faced 40 months of interment in various POW camps; many were transported in “By the late 1940s some of the surviving soldiers and their families, numbering about 2,000 people, began what has become the annual Easter pilgrimage to Chimayo as a means of expressing their profound gratitude to Santo Niño. Because, the Santo Niño Chapel was a private chapel (until 1992, when it was acquired by the Archdiocese of Santa Fe) a statue of Santo Niño was placed in a side room in the chapel nearby El Santuario de Chimayo. Thus, El Santuario, established because of the miracle associated with Nuestro Señor de Esquipulas (Our Lord of Esquipulas), became, somewhat inadvertently, identified with Santo Niño de Atocha.

Today the Easter pilgrimage is taken by as many as 40,000 people annually. By the efforts of the Holy Family and the Medina family, Santo Niño chapel is completely restored. Inside a small room adjoining the main chapel is a wooden statue of Santo Niño made by the famous santero, Felix Lopez. Filing shelves resting against the adobe walls are a pair of children's shoes left by the faithful. Some with names and dates, some with notes of entreaty or thanks. They are intended as such offerings, have been for over one thousand years, for the Holy Child so that he may have clean shoes as he travels on his journey to provide comfort to those in need.

Author Notes; There are other stories passed down about this area that would lead you to believe this is in fact a Holy place. And while I cannot confirm or reject any of these stories, I can say that both I and my wife found this to be a truly peaceful area. I do believe that this Chimayo is a place where your faith can grow. To find out more please visit their website @ http://www.elsantuariodechimayo.us/Santuario/windex.html

By A. Govea

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