Even before the sun begins inching up over the Manzanos, the walkers will begin their trek on Friday.
Hundreds of the Christian faithful will make the steep climb up Tomé Hill with their families, some carrying crosses and some praying the rosary as they commemorate Good Friday.
It’s a tradition that re-emerged when the late Edwin Berry of Adelino returned from World War II and recalled the holy trek made in years past by Penitentes in the area.
Each year, he made the long trip up the hill and more and more people joined him. By the 1990s, thousands of people could be seen walking along NM 47 toward the hill.
This year, his sons will be there to represent him. “They have a lot of beautiful songs, like Edwin did,” Edwin’s wife, Assumpta, said. “They do that in honor of my husband.”
The Berry sons will start from the bottom of the hill at about 10 a.m. Friday, March 29, she said. “A lot of people wait for my kids; they sing, they do the stations of the cross.”
Others in the county are also gearing up for the walk.
Pete Gallegos of Los Lunas and his family have been offering water and punch to the walkers for the past 12 or 13 years.
“We set up on Thursday afternoon and sleep there the night before. We give refreshments all day long. Years ago, when I saw a lot of people walking up the hill, I thought ‘How can we help those people?'” he said.
The first year, they gave away 200 cups of water to drink. “Last year, the number had increased to 8,000 to 10,000,” Gallegos said. “You can see on their faces by looking at them how grateful they are to get the refreshments.
“A lot of people want to give money, but we are not there for the money.”
Gallegos said about 20 people staff the booth, rotating work every hour or 90 minutes. “If it weren’t for the help that I get, it would be impossible for even my family to run that booth,” he said.
They give away about 300 gallons of punch and water as well as coffee. “We’re ready for whatever amount of people are there,” he said. “We’d rather have water and punch left over than to run out.”
This year’s Good Friday events will include something new — a Santero Show all morning at Tomé Clay Cooperative Gallery.
The work of santeros Steve Dorrego, Robert Gonzales, Abel John Lueras, Emilio Otero, Charlie Sanchez and Ellen Santistevan will be shown.
There will be demonstrations and prizes during the course of the day.
Meanwhile, pilgrims will meet at 6 a.m. at the parking lot at Our Lady of Belen Catholic Church to make the walk to the hill. Somewhere along their way, the sun will make its appearance.