New Mexico—Land of Enchantment…
¿Ever Heard of Chimayó?
If you answered yes, then maybe you’ve seen the Washington Post article by Irene S. Levine on the Lourdes of America.
Or perhaps you’ve admired colorful weavings and rugs designed by the Ortega and Trujillo families.
Or possibly you’ve eaten heirloom chiles, purchased a donkey at La Centinela Ranch, eaten a Chimayó manzana, or even enjoyed lunch at the James Beard award winning Rancho de Chimayó.
If you’re really lucky, you experienced all of the above PLUS you’ve seen Robert Ashley’s allegorical opera Now Eleanor’s Idea, based on the lowrider culture of the area.
Chimayó, a word derived from the Tewa language for a nearby hill called ‘Tsi Mayoh’, is a town situated in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo mountains. The famous Santuario de Chimayó, an adobe church built almost a hundred years before New Mexico became a state, is known for its miraculous sacred dirt. Attracting over 300,000 people annually—some are obviously tourists while the majority are pilgrims seeking spiritual and physical healing, a pilgrimage akin to those who trek the much longer Camino de Santiago in Spain.
In October, my husband and I decide to leave the turning of the aspen near our cabin in the mountains of northern New Mexico to journey south to Chimayó. We are searching for traditional weavings and instead discover a captivating oasis of little neighborhoods clustered around placitas, little plazas, where families have carried out their traditional crafts of weaving, wood carving, tin smithing, and santo painting (Hispanic religious images) for over three centuries—imagine that!
We happen upon the Oviedo family Centinela Ranch—a heritage horse, donkey, and sheep breeding farm combined with a foundry and gallery of bronze sculptures complemented by polychromed wood carvings, all guarded by a clowder of cats. Michelangelo and Pablo Picasso, two of the kitties, accompany us as the gracious owner gives us a tour of the foundry. After a visit to the gallery, we are escorted outside to admire award-winning Catalonian donkeys. Upon leaving, our hostess, Patricia Trujillo Oviedo, hands me a bag of their homegrown fruit. I thank her for the apples.
“These are not apples,” Patricia corrects me. “They are manzanas from Chimayó. There’s a big difference.”