Penitentes of the Southwest Exhibit

The Penitentes were a Hispanic lay brotherhood which arose in the late 18th and early 19th centuries in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado and which practiced some unusual and controversial penitential rituals, including physical mortification.

The Archives recently received a collection of Penitente artifacts, photographs and papers from historian and collector Ruben Archuleta. A native of Antonito, Archuleta was Pueblo’s first Hispanic Chief of Police, retiring in 1999. He has authored four books, two of which detail the Penitentes’ interesting past. Ruben has produced numerous catlinite stone and wood sculptures which are available through galleries in Colorado and New Mexico. His sculpture work has been exhibited along with that of other noted artists from the Southwest. His 2003 book Land of the Penitentes, Land of Tradition provides an insight into the secretive life and history of the Penitentes based on the author’s experiences, family journals, interviews, and site visits in Colorado and New Mexico. He amassed a unique collection of Spanish and Penitente artifacts and documents, as well as documenting the Penitentes, their religious items and buildings called moradas through his photography.

An exhibit of items from the collection is on display in the University Archives & Special Collections, 6th floor of the University Library, through December 31, 2011.

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