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“En Divina Luz: The Penitente Moradas of New Mexico”

by Michael Wallis

Northern New Mexico Penitente Hermanos (Brothers) speak of their deep commitment to their culture and spirituality within the brotherhood of la Fraternidad Piadoso de Nuestro Padre Jesus Nazarite (the Pious Fraternity of Our Father Jesus Nazarite).

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“We are all normal, everyday people. We are ranchers, we are physicians, we are students, we are everyone.

“We get together to pray. We find that praying can be a form of penance.

“And we go to our morada to be reminded of the life of Christ. We go not to be reminded necessarily of all the suffering, but of all the good that Christ did. We attempt to emulate the life of Christ, not just by word but through our actions. Not just during Lent, but every day of our lives. Not just with our Brothers, but with every other person we meet along the way.”

An Hermano
“My grandmother was the last of the female Penitentas in our village. When my grandmother died, they gave her an entire Penitente funeral with everything that is done for an Hermano.

“My earliest memory is of my grandmother carrying me in her arms on a wooden plank over an arroyo. She didn't trust me crossing the arroyo on my own. Every Holy Week she'd hold me in her arms and we'd cross the arroyo to go pray the Stations of the Cross. Later, I realized the symbolism of our crossing that water. She physically and spiritually carried me across the perils so I could attend those holy services.”

An Hermano
“I joined when I was a grandfather, but actually in my heart I had joined the Brothers long, long before that.

“I first started following the Hermandad when I was ten years old. I would hear uncles and others singing alabados, and I thought those words were so beautiful. My grandmother taught me what those words meant. I have never forgotten them.”

An Hermano
“We make our santo just like our ancestors did. When we make our new santos, we honor God and we honor those who became before us. And when we touch the older statues our ancestors made, then we touch our ancestors.”