"they were followed by a rude carreta in which sat a carved wooden skeleton who rattled along stiffly holding before him a bow and arrow."
Death Cart of the Penitentes at Las Trampas Church, New Mexico (c. 1912)
Public DomainDeath Cart of the Penitentes at Las Trampas Church, New Mexico (c. 1912) - Credit: Jesse Nusbaum

The Carreta del Muerto (Death cart) was a wooden ox-cart (carreta) which held an effigy of Death armed with a bow and arrow. For the Penitentes, the Carreta del Muerto represented the power of Death during the period between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection.

The Penitente dragged the cart by a horse-hair rope passed over his shoulders and under his arm-pits, the painful weight of the dragging cart cutting into his naked flesh. It was a particularly severe penance since not only was the cart very heavy, its axles were stationary, and where there was a turn in the path, the entire cart had to be dragged by main strength.