El Santuario de Chimayo
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Holy Dirt: Review of The Healing Power of the Santuario de Chimayó

I once toyed with the idea of a book on the Santuario de Chimayó in New Mexico, but I put that idea away for good when I learned that a much better qualified scholar had taken up the challenge. I had to satisfy myself with reading and reviewing Brett Hendrickson’s The Healing Power of the Santuario de Chimayó: America’s Miraculous Church (New York University Press, 2017). My review appears in the New Mexico Historical Review, Vol. 94, No. 1, pages 103-104. Here are some of the points I make about the book:

  • Brett Hendrickson digs deeply into the holy dirt of the Santuario de Chimayó and reveals the sometimes contentious relationships between ethnicity, religion, health, and commerce in this first book-length scholarly history of the picturesque church.
  • For many of the pilgrims with family ties to the site stretching back to the earliest worshipers who first established its fame, Chimayó represents, in Hendrickson’s words, “a tangible expression of their northern New Mexican Hispano heritage” (2).
  • The chapter on the origin of the Santuario includes the pre-Hispanic Pueblo Tewa uses of the site in addition to the connections between Chimayó and the Cristo Negro de Esquipulas in Guatemala.
  • A chapter on veneration of Santo Niño de Atocha, or the “Lost Child” figure of Jesus as an infant, draws attention to commercial interests and commoditizing tendencies found at all popular pilgrimage sites.
  • The miraculous little church of Chimayó serves as a lens into Latinx Catholicism that resonates far beyond New Mexico as it offers clues about the future of religion in America.

The Healing Power of the Santuario de Chimayó looks into a scenic little New Mexico church to see a long colonial history playing out on the American landscape. I am both impressed and relieved that Hendrickson has given this important site the scholarly attention it deserves. ♨

El Santuario de Chimayo
El Santuario de Chimayo, New Mexico (photo by Ron Frazier via Flickr, 2011)

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  1. I was fortunate enough to be able to go and visit this church. While VERY hard to locate even with gps help. Lots of people ,has beautiful grounds.

    1. Chimayó is a special place to visit, and Hendrickson’s book is an excellent resource for learning more about its fascinating history. Did you collect some holy dirt from “el pocito”?

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