Holy Week, the week before Good Friday and Easter Sunday, is very meaningful here in northern New Mexico. I spoke with Isabro Ortega about it today (see previous post Isabro Ortega: Master Carver). Isabro grew up very religious, very Catholic. He says, “It’s always been a tradition, as long as I can remember, walking to the Santuario (the Santuario de Chimayo). It’s a devotional thing, a spiritual thing and it’s individual. People walk for different reasons. It could be a miracle happened in their family. It could be that they’re praying for something, they could be seeking forgiveness or it could just be for the good intention of walking. In northern New Mexico it’s been a tradition to walk to the Santuario during Holy Week. Some people walk in the summer. You can walk any time. It depends on your heart, no?”
The fact is, the villages fill up with people from all over the world during Holy Week and the streets are full of walkers—pilgrims on pilgrimages. All of the old mission churches, most closed throughout the year, are open. There are no photos allowed, but the artwork and spirit within them are stunning. I told Isabro that I grew up in my parents’ church and was very devout as a girl, but I have never felt Easter as I do here in Truchas. It is simply a very important and spiritual time in northern New Mexico, a magical time.
“The Santuario is known as a miracle place,” he says. “People from all over the world come for the sacred dirt and for the Santuario itself. It’s internationally known for miracles.” His mom always gave Isabro and his brothers and sisters some dirt from the Santuario to carry in their pockets.
He remembers walking as a little boy. And as a grown up, he’s walked many times. He recalls one year in particular when he’d made a promise to walk and it was snowing. “But I walked,” he says, “and it was snowing all the way.”
People walk from Taos and Truchas, from Albuquerque and Mora—all the way from Colorado. People start a week before Good Friday so they’ll arrive in time. And they carry things they want to leave there. It’s tradition.
I lost a dear friend during this Holy Week. By his own choice he died on April 16th and I don’t think the timing was an accident. Marty was Jewish, not Catholic, and he was not actually practicing, but I do know he felt his religion powerfully. Passover held great meaning for him—it was about atonement. I can’t help but think that he was trying to make amends by choosing this time to die.
He was a wonderful, giving man but, somehow, although those who loved him saw that, he, himself, could not. And therein lies the tragedy.
My friend, Anna, said his death is a reminder for all of us to be more aware of those we love, to remember we all hold pain and sorrow within, and to open our hearts with love and compassion to each other no matter our petty grievances—to honor our connectedness, not our separateness.
Whether or not you are religious, Easter, or spring, represent a time of death and rebirth. It is my dearest wish that in this death, there will be some rebirth. I don’t see it right now, but we don’t get to see what we are in the midst of. I only know that my dear impish Marty is gone from this earth. I want to honor the life he lived by carrying the joy he gave to me, in my heart, and giving it out in the laughter he offered so easily. May his spirit find peace.
And, dear man, know you are loved.