Penitente morada, Abiquiu. NM

Three crosses stand silhouetted against the sky on a cliff in the village of Abiquiu, New Mexico. Nestled on the ridge of the cliff stands a small adobe building that appears to be a chapel. The Morada is a meeting place of the Brothers of Light, known as the Penitentes. Built, by best estimations, in the late 1700's, it is a symbol of both spiritual independence and spiritual conformity. The Hermanos Penitentes — Brotherhood of the Penitent — were once comprised, in part, by some of the lowest strata of their society, former Native American slaves called "genizaros."

The Brothers' pious observances are centered around the Passion of Jesus and the spirit of penance.. Many Brotherhood rites formerly involved expressions of a penitential spirit through self-flagellation, cross bearing, and other forms of mortification. Sometimes, in the past, a Brother was tied to a large cross during a short simulation of the Crucifixion on Good Friday. Unfortunately, these practices attracted undue attention from uncomprehending outsiders, and the Brothers were forced to alter their devotional patterns, becoming more secretive in order to protect their right to worship according to tradition.

If you choose to seek out this place of prayer be sure to observe all No Parking and No Trespassing signs: the residents of Abiquiú are very protective of their village.


  1. I would like obtain a digital copy and reproduce your fine photo of the morada at Abiquiu in my forthcoming book, DEMOCRATIC RENEWAL AND THE MUTUALISTA LEGACY (Texas A&M Press.)

    Thank you,


    Julie Leininger Pycior

    1. Hello and thank you for your comment. I'll reply to you at you email address.


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