"They were led by a pitero piping a reed and then in procession a clanging of tambourines and matracas and men naked to the waist in black capes and hoods who flailed themselves with whips of yucca and men who bore on their naked back great loads of cholla and a man tied to a rope who was pulled this way and that by his companions and a hooded man in a white robe who bore a heavy wooden cross on his shoulders."
Penitentes near Taos, New Mexico
Public DomainPenitentes near Taos, New Mexico - Credit: Library of Congress

The Holy Week processions of Los Hermanos Penitentes reached its highpoint on Good Friday when the group divided into Los Hermanos de Luz (the Brothers of Light) and Los Hermanos de Sangre (the Brothers of Blood).

The procession was led by a pitero who played a fife-like reed instrument called a pito, followed by the musicians and candlebearers of Los Hermanos de Luz. After them came the members of Los Hermanos de Sangre, scourging themselves with whips made from the yucca plant or  having bound their torsos with branching cactus of cholla. Then came the cross-bearers, the penitents who underwent a ritual ‘crucifixion’ at the close of the ceremony.