The town of Chimayó lies between Santa Fe and Taos. It’s a small place, with a population of 3177 people. Despite its size, Chimayó attracts tens of thousands of people each year, especially at Easter. They come to visit El Santuario de Chimayó, a beautiful, Spanish Colonial-style church.
These Catholic pilgrims and curious visitors aren't just drawn here by gorgeous architecture or the tranquil setting.
They are here for the soil.
Inside the church is a place known as "el Pocito." There is a hole in the stone floor of this humble room that is filled with earth. Many believe this "tierra bendita," or sacred earth, has curative properties.
Those seeking physical, emotional, or spiritual healing gather the dirt and take it home. Some choose to rub it on an afflicted body part, while others simply keep it.
A caretaker refills the well, so there is always dirt available for visitors.
On the way out, there is a collection of crutches - a testament to the healing many experience at this sacred place.
In fact, parallels are often drawn between Chimayó and the town of Lourdes, in France.
The Catholic church has neither endorsed nor rejected the idea that the earth here has curative abilities.
But the wall of photos and messages in the Santuario - prayers and expressions of thankfulness - demonstrate that many believe in the power of Chimayó.
Before the Spanish arrived, Native Americans living here also considered this area to be sacred.
So what's the story behind the sacred earth?
A man named Bernardo Abeyta, a resident of Chimayó, was performing penances when he spied a light glowing in the hills. When he investigated, he realized that the light was coming from the ground itself. He began to dig and unearthed a crucifix.
The crucifix, known as Nuestro Señor de Esquipula, was conveyed to a nearby town. But the cross vanished, only to be located back in the hole where it was originally found.
The third time that this occurred, villagers decided that instead of moving the cross, they would construct a chapel over the hole.
There are some variations on this legend. One popular, alternative version of events credits the discovery of the crucifix to a friar performing penances.
The first chapel was built in Chimayó in 1813 and the rumors of the miraculous cures occurring here began. By 1816, the church you see today was constructed, replacing the previous one.
Throughout the year, but particularly at Easter, pilgrims walk from Santa Fe, or even farther away, to Chimayó. Some carry physical crucifixes, while others carry prayers in their hearts. All seem to agree that El Santuario de Chimayó is a special place.