El Santuario de Chimayo, a small shrine located in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of Chimayo, New Mexico, has been a place of worship since before its construction in 1813. For generations, American Indians, Hispanics, and other people of faith have traveled to the site of El Santuario to ask for healing for themselves and others, and to offer prayers of petition and of thanksgiving for favors received. Following a long tradition of miraculous shrines, El Santuario is now one of the most important Catholic pilgrimage centers in the United States and one of the most beautiful examples of Spanish Colonial architecture in New Mexico. Today El Santuario de Chimayo, also known as Lourdes of America, attracts over 300,000 pilgrims from all over the Southwest and elsewhere each year. Thousands of pilgrims walk to El Santuario from Santa Fe and other starting points during Holy Week.
Pueblo Indians have inhabited the Chimayo area since the 12th century, long before the initial Spanish conquest of New Mexico. When they arrived, the Spanish committed to converting the natives to Christianity, which became a major point of friction between the Catholic Church and the American Indians. In 1680, the Pueblo Indians revolted temporarily ending Spanish commitment to the region. The Tewa Indians named Chimayo as “Tsi-Mayoh,” after one of four sacred hills above the valley, which lies directly behind El Santuario de Chimayo. The Pueblo Indians believed that they shared their land with supernatural beings. The natives thought the healing spirits were to be found in the form of hot springs, which ultimately dried up leaving the healing earth. The Pueblo and Tewa used the site of El Santuario de Chimayo for healing long before Spanish occupation.