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Media Release

Published: 01/21/2015
Contact: Randall Gann, Public Information Officer National Hispanic Cultural Center Cell Phone: 505-252-6869 Email:

Our Penitente Land: The De Aragon/Calles Collection

The National Hispanic Culture Center will host an exhibit, lecture, and performance titled Our Penitente Land: The De Aragon/Calles Collection, from February 21st to April 29th, 2015 in the History and Literary Arts Building on the NHCC campus located on the corner of 4th Street and Avenida Cesar Chavez in Albuquerque's South Valley. The exhibit opens at 2PM on Saturday, February 21st with a reception and book signing following the lecture and performance by Ray John de Aragon and Rosa Maria Calles. The event is free to the public, but there is limited seating.

The exhibit is based on the private collection and original art work of Ray John de Aragon and Rosa Maria Calles. Aragon is an internationally recognized "santero" and writer. Among his many books, The Penitentes of New Mexico (2006) recounts the history of the Penitente Brotherhood in New Mexico, officially known as the Fraternidad Piadosa de los Hermanos de Nuestro Padre Jesus Nazareno, but also known as the Hermanos de La Luz. Rosa Maria Calles is a renowned "santera," artist, theatre director, and actress. She heads the theater company Matraka, Inc.

The Hermandad, a religious confraternity that was once a vital part of religious and spiritual life in village New Mexico, is experiencing a revival today among Hispanic men and women across several generations. The Penitentes are best known for their ceremonies during Holy Week, Good Friday, and leading up to Easter Sunday. In the past, the penitents have been demonized by the Catholic Church and sensationalized by American journalists. Now, an ally of the church and carrying out the original works of charity, piety, and social service in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, penitentes are a fundamental part of New Mexican culture.

This exhibit is unique in that it focuses on the little known role of women in this holy "brotherhood." Groups like Las Carmelitas, Las Veronicas, and Las Auxiliadoras, will be presented in retablos, photographs, paintings, and lectures as part of the exhibit opening event. Also featured in the exhibit are the photographs of art photographer, Craig Varjebidian, whose large format black and white photographs of "moradas" (chapels), the site of Hermandad rituals and ceremonies, are among the best documentary work on the Penitentes in New Mexico.

For more information contact Carlos Vasquez, 245-2261 or

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