TOME — Thousands flocked to Tomé Hill on Good Friday, many of whom make the pilgrimage to the three crosses annually.
This year, they saw something new at the base of the hill, The Ten Commandments.
Juan Aragon, of Tomé, is the man behind it all. In December, Aragon conceived the idea and got to work. He first reached out to Sisneros Brothers Manufacturing in Belen to design the monument.
“They designed it and everything, and then I talked to Martin (Sisneros),” Aragon said. “When he finished, I asked how much he was going to charge me, and he said ‘I’m going to donate it to you.’”
Tomé resident Juan Aragon and a number of volunteers erected steel tablets of the Ten Commandments at the base of Tomé Hill, which were made and donated by Sisneros Brothers Manufacturing in Belen.
After receiving the kind donation from the Sisneros Brothers, Aragon began the gritty task of actually placing the monument. He organized a team of volunteers to help. One of those volunteers was Tomé resident and retired teacher LeRoy Baca.
“It was very difficult to dig into all of the rocks. We couldn’t do a lot to dig them up,” Baca said. “We had to use crowbars, chisels, a big hammer — stuff like that. It was not a very easy task.
“It involved a lot of people to get it going … Juan is the guy who got everything going and everyone motivated to put this up on the hill.”
Baca was just one of many people that helped place the monument. The help came not only from people in Tomé, but also from outside. Aragon says that he met people from Valencia, Peralta and Belen who wanted to volunteer their time and energy.
“People were very supportive. Everybody I talked to was willing to help,” Aragon said. Aragon was born in Belen, but later moved to Tomé. A catalyst of his passion for community and religion came when he was stationed in Korea as an Army soldier. Seeing people in poverty live happy lives inspired him.
“I’d see all these poor people make it. It was hard to believe they did it on their own,” he said. “Somebody — I think God — had to be behind it.”
Tomé Hill was chosen in reference to the Old Testament story of Moses receiving the Ten Commandments from Mt. Sinai. However, the site has historical significance in its own right.
Before World War II veteran Edwin Berry built the three crosses at the top in 1948; the hill was a symbol of spiritual significance for Native Americans and Spanish colonists. Today, thousands from around the world visit the hill to meditate and pray.