We've passed this roadside shrine many times on our day trips to and from the Miami, Arizona area, and I always make Craig swerve off the highway so I can take photos. It's part of my ongoing fascination with the roadside shrines that dot the highways of Arizona and New Mexico.
After stopping at the shrine last week, I searched online and found an interesting article about it. It was built by Ruben C. Licano in 1977. While in the Army in Korea, Licano promised the Virgin Mary he would erect a shrine in her honor if he returned to Arizona alive. Here's the link to the entire story.
In addition to explaining the history, the link also details some additional info about highway shrines in the Southwest.
These public shrines, also called capillitas or grutas, have become Southwestern cultural icons. Part folk art and part pure expression of faith, they have evolved from the Spanish-Catholic traditions brought to the New World by early missionaries and settlers. Arizona's are different from the sometimes elaborate roadside crosses, also called crucecitas or descansos, that are more prevalent in New Mexico and mark the sites of fatal auto accidents and similar tragedies.
Inside the rock shrine.
If you look closely, you can see names and faces in the many tributes.
A cross made of re-bar tops the shrine.
I noticed a few other area grutas in the article. Now I'm on a mission to see all of them. Next stop downtown Tucson?
Which reminds me, our last night on Ambergris Caye, I noticed this shrine in a garden behind the restaurant where we were eating in San Pedro Town. The quest continues!