THE PENITENTES OF THE SANGRE DE CRISTOS
By Bill Tate
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The Penitentes are a secret and sacred Spanish-American brotherhood who live in the mountains of northern New Mexico and southern Colorado who have pledged themselves to Christian devotions without completely withdrawing from the daily world. They have dedicated themselves in remembrance that Jesus Christ was condemned, crucified, and died on the cross for the salvation of mankind, and the expiation of his sins. Their devotions are observed usually in secret because the Penitentes believe that worship is a private matter and that one should not seek approbation for one’s sacred endeavors. They are the descendants of the vanguard of Spanish colonists who settled in the highlands of northern New Mexico and southern Colorado during the floodtide of Spanish colonization. The Penitente liturgy consists mainly of prayers called rosaries, rapturous songs called alabados, and processions. The author says, “I have no portfolio to be their apologist or oracle, but I have taken it upon myself to portray and to clarify in this book who the Penitentes are, what they do, and why, as lucidly and objectively as possible.”
Bill Tate was an artist and author who lived in the mountain village of Truchas, New Mexico where he owned and operated the Tate Gallery. His paintings hang in private collections in almost every state and many foreign countries. He served in the United States Navy and after World War II became a writer in Hollywood. After his move to New Mexico he served as a Justice of the Peace in Santa Fe and Rio Arribo counties. He has written several other books about New Mexico history and philosophy.
6 x 9