This is a welcome and extremely readable scholarly review of the Penitente groups in New Mexico. Dr. Horka-Follick has traced the origins of the various elements of the Penitentes, refuting the old notion that this organization derived from the Third Order of Saint Francis. She has given us both a historical and sociological framework within which to understand this southwestern phenomenon, and her treatment is generally calm, collected, yet sympathetic. She analyzes the Brotherhood in relation to its religious, political, economic, and social functions, and includes also a chapter outlining various positions of the Roman Catholic Church vis-à-vis the Brotherhood at various points in time. She also notes Penitente influence upon the development of the fine arts in New Mexico.
The bibliography is extensive, and includes both scholarly and popular works. Unfortunately, Dr. Horka-Follick was unable to peruse the doctoral dissertation of Dorothy Woodward (Yale, 1935) which is probably the best analysis of Los Hermanos Penitentes to date. Dr. Horka-Follick’s review is similar and a bit more up-to-date, but she has not had the personal contact and experience which contribute so much to Dr. Woodward’s work.
The present book is enriched by a series of photographs, many of which are quite old and taken from collections such as those of George Wharton James or Charles F. Loomis. In addition, each chapter begins with a reproduction of an etching from A. M. Darley’s news periodical, La Hermandad, published during April, 1890, in Pueblo, Colorado. These alone make the book worth its price.
Unfortunately, the editing of this work was not so skillful as it might have been. The glossary of terms used by native New Mexicans contains a number of spelling errors including “Angelo” for “Anglo” and “Garcias” for “Gracias.” The text itself contains frequent and rather irritatiing blunders, most of which should have been caught by the editor. For example, sometimes there are incomplete sentences. Occasionally other usages mar the reader’s continuity of thought, such as the ridiculous sentence “Religion of the most religious type was the rule and order of the day.”
However, taking the book as a whole, it is a worthwhile addition to southwestern libraries and is a must for scholars dealing with the Spanish-speaking cultures of the United States or with the development of religious voluntary associations. The book, although useful for scholars, seems aimed primarily at the general reader. In a sense, one might say that the scholarly value of the book is hidden below the general format, but it is there if one wishes to take the time and trouble to search for it.