Every year during Easter Holy Week, particularly on Holy Thursday and Good Friday, thousands of people walk in pilgrimage to the Roman Catholic shrine El Santuario de Chimayó in northern New Mexico, United States. Many walk to fulfill a personal vow, others seek the blessings said to come to those who complete their trek. All pilgrims enter the church to secure a bit of the healing and curative soil (tierra bendita) found in a small earthen pit (el pocito/little well) in a small room off the main sanctuary. Some eat this soil, others rub it over their areas of infirmity. The sanctuary goes through some twenty-five tons of this healing dirt every year.
While the majority of walkers journey from the cities of Santa Fe and Espanola, and from near the pueblo of Pojoaque, others walk the ninety miles from Albuquerque or even the 130 miles from Las Lunas, further south. A room next to the el pocito contains dozens of Milagros, cast-off crutches, and other items left by penitents. A feature of the ceremonies is a procession by Los Hermanos de la Fraternidad Piadosa de Nuestro Padre Jesús Nazareno.
In the last few years I have gone out and photographed these walkers and penitents, either from a single spot, or driving and walking along the final 12 miles of the route. There are locations along the walk where locals have established mini-shrines, large crosses implanted at high spots in the terrain. Some pilgrims deviate from the main road and leave keepsakes at these sites. I have been told that in former days there were pilgrims who crawled the route and also those who used whips to flagellate themselves.