- Associated Press - Friday, April 18, 2014

CHIMAYO, N.M. (AP) - Before dawn, thousands of pilgrims set off on a Good Friday march to El Santuario de Chimayo as part of a centuries old tradition.

Some of those making the trek were weighed down by wooden crosses, while others carried rosaries, photographs of sick relatives and requests for miracles. Some came from more than 90 miles away, having walked for days.

Dustin Nguyen, a 17-year-old who emigrated from Vietnam to New Mexico with his family several years ago, made a 10-mile trek to the shrine Friday morning with a group from St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in Albuquerque.

“It shows we’re one under God,” Nguyen told The New Mexican (https://bit.ly/1je2SzG ).

For two centuries, Hispanic and Native American pilgrims have made spiritual journeys to Chimayo, one of the most popular Catholic shrines in the Americas. Some 200,000 people are estimated to visit the National Historic Landmark each year, with the bulk occurring during Holy Week.

The draw is a shrine at the adobe chapel that houses “el pocito,” a small pit of holy dirt that some believe possesses curing powers.

Law enforcement agencies and the state Department of Transportation are working to make the crowded walking areas along the route safer by handing out glow sticks to pilgrims to make them more visible to motorists, closing roadside stands along the highways and doing extra traffic patrols.

Transit officials also added buses to the route between Espanola and Chimayo to accommodate those making the annual pilgrimage.

In central New Mexico, pilgrims were also making their way to the top of Tome Hill on Friday. After a hike up the rugged hillside, prayers are offered at the foot of three large crosses.

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