Every year, on March 1st (or 2nd if the 1st is a Sunday!) the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District comes around and opens all of the flood control gates so that all of the farmers and ranchers up and down the Rio Grande River Valley can begin to irrigate and flood their fields to prepare for the Spring planting season. For all of us, this is a sure sign that Spring is just around the corner- and it’s one of those annual markers I was just writing about over here!
Spring- at least in the Northern Hemisphere- also means that Easter is just a few short days or weeks away. In most parts of the world that practice Christianity, people usually attend church on Good Friday, learning about the sacrifices that Christ made for our sins so that we can be forgiven. Not in this small town.
Good Friday in Los Lunas means that people arise early (sometimes as early as 4:00!!) and walk from a set point to Tomé Hill, up the hill, and then back again! While the hike up and down the hill isn’t a difficult one, many of these people walk from 10 miles or more away! This pilgrimage is seen as a re-enactment of Christ’s journey, carrying His cross to Calvary, and oftentimes people will also carry crosses that they have built with them as they walk to and from the hill. It really is a sight to see, and to participate in.
While I haven’t hiked the hill in a number of years, the view from the top of Tomé Hill is spectacular- allowing you to see the entirety of Valencia County! But, what is even more impressive, and inspirational, is the camaraderie of the people walking and hiking the hill. People sing to encourage themselves and others. They share water, snacks, and sunscreen. Friends carry their friends’ children when they become too tired to walk. Prayers are said, sermons shared, and life is shared.
I’ve learned through the years that this Easter tradition is unique to our state- others in our state journey to Chimayo; that no where else in the U.S. is there a similar tradition. I’ve spoken to people who’ve moved here from other parts of our great nation, and they’ve exclaimed that they’ve never seen anything like it. But, as odd as it is, it is our tradition to perpetuate through the generations, and it is what makes our small town different from any other place on Earth.
I don’t know if I’ll hike the hill this year or not, but I would love to hear your stories- or memories!- if you do!