Penitente Death Cart
A death cart made by a Penitente artist in northern New Mexico. The "Penitente Brotherhoods," as they are also known, were secretive, lay-religious fraternal organizations that served the spiritual needs of Hispanic Roman Catholics in the remotest stretches of northern New Mexico and southern Colorado in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The death cart was a central prop in the brothers’ Good Friday re-enactment of the Passion of Christ, which became increasingly recognized by outsiders for its violence, flagellations, and culmination in a pseudo-crucifixion. Although the use of portable objects in religious plays has its roots in medieval Spain, the death cart is unique to this region and has a ritual, rather than a didactic, function.