Under Santa Fe Skies

by Susan Tungate

Palm Sunday in Santa Fe

It was about 10:30 a.m. when I heard an enthusiastic if not entirely accurate trumpet version of “When the Saints Go Marching In” and a few faint voices singing along coming from the direction of the normally quiet street outside. That got my attention.

I opened the front door to see the end of a procession of perhaps twenty elderly women, each no taller than 5’2″, holding palm branches, trailed by one frail man who looked to be in his 90s aided by a younger man in his late 70s, all following the man blowing the trumpet.

I leaned against the wall to watch.

I guessed they had walked from the church less than a block away. When the church was built in the 1950s, this area was a barrio, a closely knit community of people who, on hearing the clarion call of the trumpet, would have emerged from their homes and happily joined the merry band of palm waivers.

They were five houses down from me when they all stopped. The leader announced, “I guess we can’t wake them up. No one is coming out.” Just as he completed that sentence, his eyes met mine and he bellowed, “Except for her!” All eyes turned to look at me. With big smiles on their faces, the group did a slow pivot, held those palms high, and sang a rousing, “Alle alle luuuuuia! Alle alle luuuuuia”  as they converged around me. Several handed me their palms. When the song was over, we exchanged greetings and hugs for a happy Palm Sunday. Then the leader fired up another round of “When the Saints Go Marching In,” and they were off toward the church with renewed energy.

I wish the people in the neighborhood had flung open their doors and joined in the spirit of the procession. I truly do. But I was graced with all the smiles and love they hoped to give to many that Palm Sunday, and I was moved.


Faith and Hope: A Pilgrimage to Chimayo

On Good Friday, the annual Easter pilgrimage to the small adobe chapel in Chimayo, New Mexico will begin. By Sunday, as many as 50,000 people will walk the ninety miles from Albuquerque, the fourteen miles from Chupadero, the forty miles from Taos or the twenty-five miles from Santa Fe pushing baby carriages and wheelchairs, bearing crosses and statues of their patron saints, holding high photographs of loved ones who are ill in a petition for healing. Some will park their cars along the highway and join the others as they walk the last few miles on the winding two lane highway that leads to the Santuario de Chimayo.

People from all over the world and all religions make the pilgrimage. They walk in memory of a loved one or as a prayer for peace. Some walk because their grandmother told them the journey is part of their heritage. They must follow the foot prints of their parents and grandparents and great grandparents  in giving thanks for God’s gifts.

Most walk as a demonstration of their faith, their belief in a God who listens to their prayers. When they arrive at the Santuario, they sit in the pews and pray and then enter the adjacent room to finger the dirt thought to bring forth miracles.

And for those not rooted in faith who walk to be part of a community, to be part of something larger than themselves, they may find a message of hope in the form of a lone peach tree in full bloom, flourishing in the sandy soil.