Penitentes (New Mexico)

Los Hermanos de la Fraternidad Piadosa de Nuestro Padre Jesús Nazareno (Spanish: 'The Brothers of the Pious Fraternity of Our Father Jesus the Nazarene'), also known as Los Penitentes, Los Hermanos, the Brotherhood of our Father Jesus of Nazareth and the Penitente Brotherhood) is a lay confraternity of Spanish-American Roman Catholic men active in Northern and Central New Mexico and southern Colorado. They maintain religious meeting buildings, which are not formal churches, called moradas.


Although there is great variability regarding candidacy for Brotherhood membership, usually novices come from Penitente families and ideally, only those of known background and conviction are chosen to undergo the initiation. New candidates express their desire for novitiate status by application to the Hermano Mayor, the secretary, or some other official of the morada of intention. After a thorough investigation of the petitioner's life and motives, he receives elaborate instruction in the Brotherhood's regulations and rituals. If he passes an examination on this material, he is allowed to present himself, together with a sponsor, at the morada door for the actual rite of initiation. Aspirants might apply for admission to the Brotherhood after mature thought, as a matter of course, or as the result of a vow or promesa (religious promise). It is also thought that the eldest son of a Penitente father "automatically" joined the Brotherhood at the age of eighteen to honor and obey his parents.

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