Portales Church of the Hidden Cove

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DECEMBER 1, 2016

The “name” is a combination of a loose translation from my Laguna Native friend’s relatives, and the interpretation from descendants of the land grant surrounding the area. Portales is actually very far away from this locale, however, pilgrimages have been made to this mystical spot for various ailments of the soul. I feel as though this location is a “borderland” between our world and something old, but not something sinister or angelic, just an oldness that has been here for longer than any of us can understand.

Befriend the locals or be respectful, as this land is somewhere between tribal and land grant territory. This carved, alcove church is a simplistic shrine very few have ever seen, and I was honored to be the person to official place the location online.

Remember how I said to be respectful of the locals? Surrounding this area are the indigenous Laguna, some Acoma, and those granted access by the Spanish King via blessing way before this region became a US territory (or state). If you fail to be respectful to land or the people, there are whispers that if you touch/drink/interact with the waters, they will judge your soul and deal with you appropriately. The edges of the cut away cliffs on this Mesa church “bleed” (iron deposits) when the shrine isn’t cared for.

While no one lays direct claim to this unique Canyon church, it is mysteriously cared for and prepared for annual pilgrimages.

While kneeling in front of the Virgin Mary to capture a few photographs of her unique beauty, I kept seeing a figure out of the corner of my eye sitting at the farthest pew, towards the exterior. I would look at his general direction, and he’d be gone. I’d turn back to the Virgin Mary or the Spring that miraculously sprung up near the bottom of her shrine, and I would see him again. This figure was indigenous, dressed in farming clothing. Dusty Black button up shirt that was faded and folded up to his elbows, farm pants that were well cared for but definitely broken in. His hair was long in braids. His face was weathered and studious. I turned and asked my friend if someone else was here, and she said “no, I thought I saw somebody that I know, or I think I know but it doesn’t make any sense” It kinda startled us so we stepped away and I proceeded to leave the place while continuing to snap photos. As we crossed through the gate, we heard a “whoop” and a rock was thrown, but we couldn’t figure out what direction. It didn’t scare us at all, it was like being surprised by an old friend, or like an old uncle. It was familiar, though I have no relatives in New Mexico and I am not Navajo/Laguna/Acoma/Apache at all. As we took off, a blue glowing hue filled the sunset, and it felt like it emanated from that canyon.

Other photographers that have claimed to feel overwhelming peace when visiting the location, and there are stories that pilgrims will talk to anyone that’s passed away that year at this location. It’s definitely a “thin place” -I feel like if we had stayed I would have seen proof of that, and it’s one of my biggest regrets for not doing.

Submitted by Omi S/CreepGeeks Podcast, Liminal Ambassador