The coffee was hot and there were plenty of donuts, but aside from chit-chat about everyday matters among friends and neighbors the group of people gathered in the kitchen of the Velasquez home in Taos were taking an important break.
The women were members of the Guadalupanas and the men were fiscales representing the San Geronimo Church, both from Taos Pueblo. They were taking a little rest while on their journey to the Santuario de Chimayó for Good Friday (April 19), a distance of about 51 miles they planned to travel as part of an annual tradition throughout northern New Mexico. They may not make it all the way, but their efforts were considered symbolic of the entire journey.
The Velasquez family have opened their home to provide this respite for more than 20 years, according to Grace Velasquez, a duty they have performed out of support for the Catholic faithful. Marie Martinez, one of the pilgrims, said the Velasquez family, even though they are from the town of Taos, can often be seen taking part in Sunday Mass at the tribe’s San Geronimo Church.
The church is where the group’s journey began at about 6:30 in the morning, led by the fiscales who provide an important bridge between the tribe's native religion and the Catholic Church. Along the way, they took “the back way” to town, stopping at the historic Morada de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe along Spider Road. The morada is a chapel used by local members of the Penitente Brotherhood, a lay men's organization that historically led the religious lives of small Hispanic communities in the absence of ordained priests . This one in particular is well known having been famously painted by artist Georgia O’Keeffe.
From there, the group headed south picking up a route along Gusdorf Road and stopping at the Velasquez’s home before continuing south toward State Road 518 and the High Road toward Chimayó.
The Guadalupanas are a group of women in Taos County and throughout northern New Mexico “who pray and sacrifice for vocations to the priesthood and religious life through a devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Francis of Assisi,” according to a story in the “Remarkable Women of Taos” (womenoftaos.org). They began as a support organization for “the Peregrinos (pilgrims), men and boys who in 1972 began walking in pilgrimage to El Santuario de Chimayo.”
The Santuario is highly revered as a New Mexico holy site, partly due to the curative powers it is said to possess. It has been a pilgrimage destination for generations, particularly on Good Friday.
As the Taos Pueblo group prepared to leave the Velasquez home, they said Our Father and Hail Mary prayers, led by elder Lorraine Martinez as she stood in front of the crucifix that would soon be carried by young Marian Suazo at the head of their little procession. They thanked the Velazquez family for all their help and for the support thay have given all these years.
Then, they hefted their packs and headed up the road.