Penitente Artifact  Exhibit
The Penitentes, also known as La Fraternidad Piadosa de Nuestro Padre Jesus Nazareno (The Pious
Fraternity of Our Father Jesus the Nazarene)  is a brotherhood of Hispanic, Catholic laymen.  They
have existed primarily in southern Colorado and northern New Mexico for many generations.  Some
scholars believe that the brotherhood can be traced to thirteenth century Europe however the more
acceptable belief is that they are an offshoot from the Third Order of St. Francis of Assisi.  
Unfortunately early documentation about the
Hermandad (Brotherhood) by outsiders has been
derogatory and concentrates on their rituals rather than the economic and spiritual support that they
provided  for their members, their church and their community.  Ruben Archuleta hopes to paint a
positive image of the
Hermandad through his presentations, books and exhibits.  The exhibit allows
the public to view the Penitente artifacts, handwritten prayer books called
cuadernos, alabados
(hymns), original journals, and other religious items rarely seen by outsiders.  Archuleta recognizes
that the exhibit does not accurately portray the humble, charitable lives led by the
Hermanos since the
artifacts on display cannot tell the whole story.  For a more detailed account of the
Hermandad click on
Land of the Penitentes Land of Tradition

This Penitente exhibit was made possible through the generosity of the Penitente Hermanos
(Brothers), Archuleta family members,  relatives and friends.  The goal of the exhibit is to preserve
the Penitente heritage, their rituals, their prayers and hymns, and their artifacts.   Many of the
Hermanos meeting places, called moradas, are deteriorating as their roofs leak and slowly crumble the
adobe walls.  Sadly, some
moradas have been looted for their valuable artifacts such as their santos
(wooden religious statues), their ritual instruments, and other religious items.  Several of the  
moradas have been vandalized and even set afire.  Penitente items are being sold to buyers who are
in the business of making a profit from these artifacts which are sacred to the

Most of the items in this exhibit belong to the Archuleta family however several artifacts have been
donated or loaned to the exhibit by families who are proud of their ancestor's membership in the
Hermandad.  Items donated to the exhibit are not sold.  In case of duplicates, a donated piece may be
traded for another Penitente item that will enhance the exhibit.    Donations of Penitnete artifacts may
be made by contacting Ruben E. Archuleta at the
contact information page
The Penitente items shown here are part of the Archuleta collection which was on display at
the Southeastern Colorado Heritage Center in Pueblo, Colorado.  The rest of the collection
was kept in a
morada that was replicated at the San Luis Museum and Cultural Center in San
Luis, Colorado.  Most of the collection is now archived and is on display at the CSU-Pueblo
Library in Pueblo, Colorado. Some artifacts are also on display at the Southeastern Colorado
Heritage Center also in Pueblo, Colorado.  Many of the artifacts came from San Antonio,
Colorado; Los Lobatos, Colorado and the Los Pinos, New Mexico area
The 11  1/2 foot madero is a heavy cross used by the Hermanos
during their Holy Week ritual.  Other items pictured are a death
cart, original journals,
disciplinas (whips) and photos of
Hermanos from southern Colorado and northern New Mexico.
Penitente crosses, statue, divisas (ribbons), disciplina (whip),
tin can candle holders,
matracas (wooden noisemakers) and
newspaper and magazine articles on the Penitentes from the
late 1800's to the early 1900's.
Penitente crosses from the Trinidad,
Colorado area
moradas.  Courtesy of
Ralph Gallegos, Trinidad, Colorado
These disciplinas (whips) came from the moradas in San
Antonio and Los Lobatos, Colorado.  The whips were made
from local material available such as the yucca plant, rope
and twine.  They were used during the Penitente rituals.
Original Penitente journals and ribbon which
belonged to Jose Pablo Archuleta (b. 1838)
and his son, Francisco Antonio (b. 1883). One
of the journals has an embossed seal from the
Territory of New Mexico
The matracas (wooden noisemakers) pictured here were used by
Hermanos during their Holy Week rituals.  Some of these
matracas date back to the the late 1800s and were probably used
by Ruben Archuleta's grandfather and great grandfather who
belonged to the moradas in Los Pinos, NM, and San Antonio, CO.
A primitive, antique, straw-applique
cross that belonged to
Margarito Gallegos, from the
Trinidad, Colorado area.  Courtesy of
Ralph Gallegos, Trinidad, Colorado
This 9 foot calvario, otherwise know as an
Arma Christi, symbolizes Mount Calvary
and was donated by the
Hermanos from
the San Antonio, Colorado