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A Church with a Hole in its Heart

An excerpt from One Nation Under Gods: A New American History, by Peter Manseau

In the dry red soil of Chimayo, New Mexico, there is a hole in the ground that some call holy. They intend no pun, no play on words. The hole is a serious matter; the locals who tend to it would no more joke about their humble opening in the earth than they would a hole in the head, or the heart.

An arm’s length in diameter and just deep enough that the temperature seems to drop when you lean in for a closer look, the hole has been here for centuries. The dirt in this valley has been regarded as sacred since before the birth of the republic of which it is now a part; it has been revered as the physical nature of the spirit world since before the Spanish missionaries arrived with their own notions of embodied divinity; it was holy even before the first Europeans looked on the people of an unmapped continent and declared that they must know nothing of God.

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