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The Penitente Morada

Listed under Modern Monuments in New Mexico, United States.

Photo of The Penitente Morada
Photo by Tammie Dooley
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On a cliff in New Mexico stands the reason I could die and not regret having never seen Paris, or gasp, Italy. The structure is not in guidebooks; its presence on the internet limited. The wonder of it on this trip, a simple road trip on borrowed time, summarizes what travel should be – a serendipitous discovery of the unknown. I’d only heard of it from those who’d heard of it. A small shotgun structure built in the 1700s of straw and mud, the soft curves formed by hand, the large bell at one end tethered to a frayed rope, neither it nor what transpires inside has been altered much by time.

Standing respectfully behind the fence with evening bearing down I walked back and forth admiring its position on the hill, the three silhoutted crosses shifted in sand until they’d settled into their own quirky angles, the perfection of the clouds, the angles and time of day at which I’d want to photograph it…. Intent to absorb and appreciate the drama of the moment without a camera in hand, an ineffable joy at seeing this with my own eyes created unexpected tears. I didn’t know then that the next evening I’d be inside the structure, part of a service a rare few have seen.

Read more on Tammie's blog.

Written by  Tammie Dooley.

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