Santuario Pilgrims: Stories From The Road
CHIMAYO – As has been done for decades, the walkers are on the road again to the Santuario de Chimayo. Northern New Mexico residents are familiar with the Easter week tradition when over 10 thousand pilgrims will walk to the Santuario chapel in Chimayo.
The majority of walkers were on the road on Good Friday but many other have been walking all week. On Thursday we took the opportunity to visit with different individuals at different points on the road to Chimayo. Here are their stories.
For years during Easter week Estevan Aguilar would walk to Chimayo from Santa Fe. Every year he would realize how hard it was in that long stretch between Santa Fe and Nambe. When Estevan married, he and his wife did the walks together. Then 11 years ago they took their 1 year old son along. It was a difficult walk that year and especially so with a young child.
Since then Estevan and his family have decided their part of the tradition will now be in helping other pilgrims along the way. It started with a couple cases of water handed out to walkers from the back of their truck. Since then it has grown to an event tent with full staff providing food, hot coffee and a place to rest. Walkers at night will also receive a glow stick to help keep them safe on the road.
The family normally invests over $500 of their own money in the preparations and many other people have joined them to help meet the needs of the walkers. On a typical year they will serve over 1,000 walkers.
This year, Estevan is happy to bring out a new treat for walkers. In the colder hours of night and morning they will be making and serving café de olla, a Mexican style coffee with cinnamon and pilloncillo.
Estevan Aguilar and his Father Felix Aguilar setting up the refreshment tent they run with their family every year. They staff it 24 hours a day for two days to help walkers recharge along the way to Chimayo.
Betty Box has walked to Chimayo every year for the last 21 years. It never gets easier but she still makes the journey on foot from Santa Fe each year.
Guru Simran Khalsa and Dwayne Merritt with the Red Cross at a Rio Arriba County relief booth along the road in Chimayo. Rio Arriba County was setting up a command center to handle the large volume of walkers and address any needs of people in distress.
By Thursday afternoon many pilgrims were already arriving at the Santuario in Chimayo.
J.P. Chatellard of France journeyed to New Mexico this year to take part in the walk to the Santuario. He was persuaded to do the walk by friends who did it last year. An experienced mountain climber in Europe, Chatellard left Santa Fe on foot at 8 a.m. Thursday morning and arrived at the Santuario around 3:30. We found him resting under a tree while waiting for his friends to pick him up. He told us that this type of walk was harder than he expected. He said “Mile after mile on hot asphalt wears you out and starts to burn your feet.”
On the road between Nambe and Chimayo we ran into congressman Ben Ray Lujan. He started his walk at the Cathedral in Santa Fe Thursday morning and was making good progress when our camera caught him on the road.
Javier Leon, Rosa Ardon and Brian Roybal began at the Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe Thursday morning.
Priscilla Varela completed her 31st year of walking to Chimayo Thursday evening. She was joined this year by James Tapia.