Art: Icons of Pain

Few places on earth could have been less auspicious to artists than New Mexico two centuries ago. The borderlands of what Cortes had fondly supposed to be the gold-stuffed kingdom of Cibola, New Mexico was a backward, poor, remote fief of Spain, all but forgotten in Madrid. The Franciscan friars, whose missions had supplied the chief form of local government in the colony, had been withdrawn. Most of the white community leadership came from a group of masochistically deranged Christian fakirs, the Penitent brotherhood, whose way of praising their redeemer was to imitate his Passion by flogging themselves with wire-tipped scourges....

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