Los Hermanos de Sangre

He stumbled and fell for the last time.

He lay face down in the sterile dirt, crying spasmodically before a few hundred onlookers. A cloud of dust engulfed him and stuck to the blood and pus oozing from the stripes across his back. Little bits of loose flesh boiled out from his wounds attracting a swarm of hungry flies.

He was lifted by the arms and roughly turned over where hooded men fastened him to a crudely constructed cross. With the help of two ropes, the cross was raised up until it slipped securely into a little hole that was cut into a rock. Cries came from some of the women who were there to watch.

“I thirst,” he whispered, barely audible to the men below.

He was dehydrated and expending a tremendous amount of energy just to keep conscious beneath the blazing afternoon sun. A rag was dipped in a bowl of sour wine and raised to his lips. The smell woke his senses and the pangs of indignity and humiliation came rushing over him. He threw his head back and cried to heaven.

From about thirty paces away, a young man was watching; an obvious outsider to the event that was taking place. There were many in the crowd who didn’t want him there; who would have willingly taken his life had they not been stayed. Every instinct within him told him to run, to hide, but the urge to be a witness was too great.

The young man slowly descended to his knees.

From his knees, he adjusted the view of his camera.

Only after bribing the mayor on March 30th, 1888, did the young man, Charles Lummis, became the first to photograph the severe Holy Week rituals of Los Hermanos Penitentes of San Mateo, New Mexico.


Mark Kerstetter said...

A strange and disturbing practice. The same people carved vivid figures of the suffering Christ out of wood, which they painted in bright colors.

cyurkanin said...

I understand religious fervor, but sometimes it goes a bit far. The church has always battled this type of display. Personally, it doesn't bother me. It still goes on there in New Mexico as well as many pockets of the world, mostly in places of Spanish colonialism. The most public practice of this today is in the Philippines; here's a great documentary video of it (not for the faint of heart) - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sB5PUF_Hrhk

What's most interesting about the practice to me is that those who participate tend to not be the "holy" type or even very religious at all throughout the rest of the year. I suppose they take as their role model the good thief Saint Dismas hoping for one act to save them.