El Pocito (the Little Well)
Visitors to El Santuario come from all over the world and represent many diverse religious and cultural beliefs. Many are pilgrims who walk long distances, sometimes barefoot, sometimes carrying large wooden crosses. Some visitors are Jews, Hindus, Muslims or Buddhists who come initially out of simple curiosity. Some are blessed with the belief that they are at a place of God that transcends those things which tend to separate us.
Nearly all who come to El Santuario visit "el Pocito" which is in a small sideroom off to the side of the altar. Even the door to this room is small and most who enter must stoop. You must kneel to reach and scoop out the "tierra bendita" (sacred earth) which is in hole in the stone floor.
Many apply it to places on their bodies corresponding to the wounds our Lord received during his crucifixion. Some of the dirt is poured into bags and vials to be taken home. Many people believe that, rubbed on the body it can ease arthritis, paralysis, sore throat, sadness, and the pains of childbirth. Many believe it can cure cancer. Some also believe that a pinch thrown into the fire will avert or disperse a storm. Many of these beliefs are ancient. El Santuario was built on the site where the crucifix of Nuestro Señor de Esquipulas was found buried in the soil by don Bernardo Abeyta.
As you leave el pocito and proceed along the narrow, dimly lit room that leads to the side exit of El Santuario you pass a wall of crutches, walkers, crosses and crucifixes which hang on or lay against the rock and dirt wall. Everywhere there are notes of prayer, requests for blessings or thanks offered for the intercession of God. These are written on small scraps of paper, rolled up and tucked into crevices, or posted on the walls along with pictures of loved one, living and dead.
All of these things are left by the visitors to El Santuario. They wordlessly speak of the faith and belief of the pilgrims and other visitors in the curative powers of the "tierra bendita" and of El Santuario. They wordlessly remind us that our belief in the benevolence and intercession of our loving God is still strong in our hearts.