About This Place
Chimayo is a census-designated place (CDP) in Rio Arriba and Santa Fe Counties in the U.S. state of New Mexico; the community's name is more correctly pronounced and spelled Chimayó, a name that derives from a Tewa name for a local landmark, the hill of Tsi Mayoh. The town is unincorporated and includes many neighborhoods, called plazas or placitas, each with its own name, including El Potrero de Chimayó (the plaza near Chimayó's communal pasture) and the Plaza del Cerro (plaza by the hill). The cluster of plazas called Chimayó lies near Santa Cruz about 25 miles north of Santa Fe. The population was 3,177 at the 2010 census.
The Potrero plaza of Chimayó is known internationally for a Catholic chapel, the Santuario de Nuestro Señor de Esquipulas, commonly known as El Santuario de Chimayó. A private individual built it by 1816 so that local people could worship Jesus as depicted as Esquipulas; preservationists bought it and handed it over to the Archdiocese of Santa Fe in 1929. The chapel is now managed by the Archdiocese as a Catholic church. For its reputation as a healing site (believers claim that dirt from a back room of the church can heal physical and spiritual ills), it has become known as the "Lourdes of America," and attracts close to 300,000 visitors a year, including up to 30,000 during Holy Week (the week prior to Easter). It has been called "no doubt the most important Catholic pilgrimage center in the United States." The sanctuary was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1970.
Chimayó is also known for the weaving traditions of the Ortega and Trujillo families, who have been weaving in the Spanish Colonial tradition for many generations and now operate weaving businesses near the Plaza del Cerro and in the placita of Centinela. Their traditional craft is but one of several still practiced in the region, including tin smithing, wood carving, and making religious paintings. These activities, along with the local architecture and the landscape of irrigated fields, create a historic ambiance that attracts much tourism.