Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Fakes and Authenticity in Southwest Collectibles, Appraisals and lessons to learn.

Our store Two Graces Plaza Gallery sells Art, Books and Curios of the Southwest, we strive to sell the best items we can Vintage Antique Collectibles of the old southwest here in Taos, New Mexico at affordable price points.
This particular post is meant to help with your shopping for antique collectibles from the Southwest and to keep you from purchasing misrepresented or fake items. To view some of the items we sell please refer to many of the other blog posts here, there are lots of pictures. Anxious to know what we have for sale in the Fred Harvey Jewelry or Pueblo Pottery categories please ask, I can always send you pictures or join us on Facebook where updates of new merchandise are more frequent. I have provided lots of posts on old kachina dolls and on the many curios we carry in this Blog.
It burned me up that a member of the US Armed Forces was recently duped by an unscrupulous 'Indian Trading Post' dealer in San Diego! Which motivated me to write the following post as our "tourist" season in the great American Southwest just begins.
 Recently someone asked me to repair a “kachina” they had purchased. My reply asked for them to send photos. The picture they sent was of a carving depicting a petroglyph version of Kokopelli. Let me say that Kokopelli is a doll that is carved out on the Hopi Mesas, but the typical style of this doll is that of a man or woman image with an upturned white ‘nose’, usually with a hump or sack on it’s back and a depiction of genitals. Your regular every day depiction of Kokopelli found specifically in rock art is not what you will find as an actual Kachina Doll carving.
Now let me tell you the doll was purchased in San Diego from an “Indian Trading Post” shop, this wouldn’t be my first place to purchase a Kachina Doll from, but so be it, the shop exists. This shop also has supplied a “Certificate of Authenticity” with the purchase. The name of the maker and a date is written in pen at the bottom and the name, address & telephone of the shop are printed at the top. There is also a bit towards the bottom that there will be a shipping & handling fee of $15. on items returned within 30 days, (often this is called a re-stocking fee).
ANYONE can go online and download a genuine looking Certificate of Authenticity but this has little to no value. Say you found the piece to not be genuine, and say your option is to return it and pay a $15 fee for this convenience, doesn’t matter to the shop one way or another, they’ll put it out on the shelf for sale again and sell it to some other customer.

Even if I tell you to deal with reputable dealers, that little old man in that charming old shop is going to tell you a story that you’re going to LOVE and must buy the thing he just made up a whole lot of air about. All this, with or without a ‘certificate’ of any kind.
I can’t begin to tell you how many times people want a ‘story’ to go along with the item they are purchasing. IF I don’t know a story, I don’t attempt to make one up, and I could just as easily give you what you’re after and make something up. This to me is wrong, if I don’t know more about it than what I’ve told you, then I don’t know. If you purchase something from me that I had no idea anything about it and it turned out to be worth 100 times what you paid for it, blessings to you. This has probably happened in my shop more than I would be proud to admit. It happens to everyone dealing in antiques of any sort, you can’t be an expert in everything. Specialize in what you love and learn as much as you possibly can about that field.
A local dealer came in and asked about a large display of old oil painting brushes that I had, he wanted to know if they had belonged to a significant Taos Artist, which they had not. I told him so and although they made a very beautiful picturesque display he walked away without purchasing them. Another local dealer thought about purchasing something from me for a year, one day he came in and bought the item when I wasn’t at the shop for 1/3 the price I had on it. I’ve seen it on his website repainted to look more ‘authentic’, although I can be as mad as I am, there is nothing I can do about this. So, if it looks too good to be true, be careful, and this person has a very high end shop with a large clientele. Just reporting this here can get me into more hot water than I care to think about, for the are well respected and connected dealers.
One of the local ‘pickers’ came by to show me a few kachina dolls, one of which was from a Santa Fe collection that he was suspicious of because of the way the ears were, he told me so and as I looked at it I remembered that the doll could be carved with one ear or both ears in that manner. Sure enough it’s in the best of the books on kachinas "Following the Sun and Moon: Hopi Kachina Traditions" by A.H. Secakuku 1995 as such, either way one cone shaped ear or 2. I wish I’d purchased it from him it was a beauty ca 1950’s.
Often a knowledgeable person will walk into the shop and tell me more about something I have that I didn’t know anything at all about. At times I hold onto items I don’t know about rather than make a mistake. I purchased a doll that appeared to be some sort of Mohawk Indian doll, I asked a few people about it and they came to the same conclusion, “African”.
My own experience with purchasing a Kachina, 35 years ago, was with an “Indian Trading Post” shop in Rockport, Massachusetts where I purchased a ‘genuine’ Indian Kachina. You can take a wild guess that, yup, I bought my first Navajo Pow Wow Dancer that day. A few years later I bought a “Kachina” doll on Ebay, that too far from the real thing, the carved wooden kachina turned out to be a plastic resin casting! One of the traders I know bought a wonderful fake from someone on Ebay, which I purchased from him just to have in my shop to show people how desirable a fake can be, (and let me tell you, more people wanted to buy that carving than any other I had in the shop, I finally sold it on Ebay as a fake just to get rid of it).
As I look on Ebay today of 350 listings under the search Kachina in a one day time span 38 show up that are actually Hopi carved dolls, very elaborate contemporary items, 62 are Navajo Pow Wow Dancers and 3 are completely fake, one of which I would consider calling a “Boy Scout” carving but that would be overly generous. The rest of the items that turn up in my Ebay search are prints, jewelry and stuff that for no rhyme or reason should show up for this search. I will give Ebay credit that they do have a nicely written post on how to spot a fake kachina, but as far as their “Buyer Protection” policy goes, I warn you it’s more of a BUYER BEWARE protection policy than a truly in your best interest policy. I’ve read that 98% of autographs purchased on Ebay are fakes, that’s a high percentage and a field that you should probably stay away from.
Recently a customer pointed out to me a big auction house that had just sold lots and lots of Kachina dolls. As I looked at the images there were many fakes among the lots, many misidentified and lots of stuff the auction house hedged their bets on by listing them as ‘Hopi Style’. The customer asked me why these didn’t sell for high prices. I knew a few of them had been sold on Ebay, the person that had collected these had been buying up quite a bit of stuff online. As the dolls were sold in group lots, the fakes devalued the real and made bidders skeptical of all. 
On Jewlery, there is a town in the Philippines named Zuni, where they make “Zuni” jewelry or FAKE Native American Zuni Jewelry. The stuff they export is Extremely popular in shops across the US. Much of the beaded necklaces and earrings for sale in shops across the Southwest may indeed be Made by a Native American, but more than likely the beads and fetishes were made in China or the Philippines and “Strung together” by that Native American. Whether you are purchasing from a sweet looking little girl or a beautiful Grandmother on an Indian Reservation or in Indian Land, people lie bold faced to you when you ask if they “Made” it. If the item doesn’t LOOK hand crafted don’t assume it is. If it’s a gift for your 5 year old and is inexpensive enough no worries, until they grow up and find that you got them a lovely FAKE. You wouldn’t want your legacy to be, look, Grandma handed down a fake to me!
Nowadays legitimate makers of fine Silver jewelry can hardly afford the silver, so they are using copper more and more, same fine craftsmanship and more affordable, although turquoise on copper may not look quite as lovely as it does on silver. Years ago a few very accomplished makers of Concha belts turned to using Nickel silver, not sterling they couldn’t afford it, the craftsmanship is some of the best out there, but the material is not the best. Silver tarnishes, don’t clean it, let it age with a nice patina over the years. Silver when rubbed hard and vigorously with your finger will leave a black mark on your finger, nickel silver will not leave any residue behind at all. A woman I know here came into the shop all happy at her fine Concha Belt and how valuable she assumed it to be. I was the only one bold enough to tell her the truth, nickel silver and not nearly as valuable as a sterling silver belt would be. She was so mad at me she didn’t speak to me for a year and actually bad mouthed me to friends. Taos is a small community and word gets back to you here. Should I have lied to her, ethics say no, I told her the truth no matter how much it hurt her feelings and no matter how badly she lashed out at me. At the time she was desperate for money and that was all she could think about, now she has sold her house for an inflated Taos price and is once again happy with the world and even with me.
The people that set up in front of the Palace of the Governors in Santa Fe are vetted and must be selling legitimate crafts otherwise they are not allowed to sell there. They are one of the best sources for real contemporary Native American Jewelry.
On Pottery I will tell you if you are considering making a purchase listen to the way the pot sounds when you tap or ping it with the back of your finger. There should be a ring, like when you tap a crystal wine glass, or at least a nice sound, not a dull thud. Some places wrap pottery in plastic wrap to ‘protect’ them from dirt, don’t buy it unless the dealer is willing to unwrap it and tap it for you. The best book to read up on what to look for when it comes to Pueblo Pottery is “Southwestern Pottery Anasazi to Zuni” by Hayes & Blom 1996. There are specific reasons one pot can be more valuable than another, age, maker, pueblo, style, sound and on and on. Learn about it and collect what appeals to you. If you are looking for a quick fix of ‘southwest’ style and choose to purchase pottery from Mexico of the Mata Ortiz type you are on your own as far as I’m concerned. A couple from Colorado came by last weekend asking if I would appraise their Mata Ortiz collection for insurance purposes, even a local dealer that specializes in the stuff wouldn’t appraise it for them, it has Little value! This type of pottery has appreciated in value very, VERY little, with very few auction houses even willing to resell it. It may look quite nice on your bookshelf, so let’s keep it at that, as far as investment goes, you will never get your money back on it, (unless all southwestern pueblo pottery disintegrates overnight).
I purchased a very large Acoma pot years ago from a friend’s storage unit, her dad had passed away and he was a Santa Fe Flea Market dealer. When I first came to the Southwest I would see dealers tossing dirt onto the items they had on display at the Santa Fe Flea Market, aging them! The pot had a chip on the rim, but it was so oversized that I had to have it. I took it to 2 different dealers I knew here, they both smiled when they saw it. They both told me that years ago there was a guy in Mora, New Mexico making these pots that looked like the real thing, but they were being FAKED and sold to every dealer in Santa Fe as the genuine rare pots that they appeared to be. It was the chip that was the dead give away, they could tell from the clay and how it had been fired this was not a legitimate pot. This was my first lesson in fake pottery, one of the dealers told me that the lesson I had just learned was worth every penny I paid for the pot. I did sell the pot for exactly what I’d purchased it for to a local couple (as a fake, complete with story) to put on display on the roof top of their Bed and Breakfast where it would make a great display.
When the economy collapsed a few years ago the New York Times published an article about some of the best places to invest your money with vintage collectible Native Americana being one of the best investments and with pueblo pottery at the top of the list. Why because it can break and therefore pieces that are not broken have become rare and more desirable, they just appreciate in value, plain and simple. Right now we have a few pieces of pottery that are very good investments, my prices are at least half of what other dealers would be selling them at.
Furniture has been faked for years and is one of the worst culprits in the marketplace as you will see very well documented on shows like Antiques Roadshow. Lots and lots of fine country furniture have been faked for over 200 years, and if you don’t know your stuff then be cautious not to overspend. A local shop has a lovely hand made chest, which looks very much like chests you would see in Museum collections of southwestern furniture. Then I looked at it more closely. The wood has a copper or brass patina on it, why in the world would WOOD have a green patina on it unless it was in contact with copper or brass! Then too, no dove tail joinery the thing had been cobbled together with old boards, but not old nails just some regular rusty nails that could have been re-used from some other wooden item. Worm holes and age can be faked, people beat things with heavy chains and use sandpaper to ad age, even use old boards from older furniture to be remade into something else entirely. Take a close look is that consistent wear and tear or is that added on for your deception?
Sometimes you purchase something for the look and style of the piece, if the price is right and you’ve got to have it then go ahead and make the purchase. If you are buying something to hand down and that will appreciate in value please be careful what you buy.
Lastly a word on appraisals, for insurance purposes go to someone who specializes in what you need appraised, ask for a written statement that is notarized and PAY FOR THE APPRAISAL. As for appraisals to stroke your ego and prove how smart you are that you got a great deal, DON’T even come a knocking. There’s nothing worse than someone who wants me to work for them for FREE. And yes, I consider it work, my knowledge, HONESTY and my time is a valuable commodity. Be prepared to be told the truth about your item, again have you ever watched Antiques Roadshow, there are winners and losers out there. When that little old guy pulled up with a bolo tie he bought 50 years ago here in Taos, I didn’t have the heart to tell him that it probably wasn’t worth what he had paid for it. Recently a book was published specifically about Bolo ties, usually values go up because demand goes up when a book is published on a particular collectible, in this case even the book has devalued and today can already be found in remainder bins. There’s just little to no interest in these beautiful pieces made for gentlemen of the southwest. A woman turned up with a brass pitcher, from India, not Native American, she thought she had a valuable piece in her possession. Have you ever watched Pawn Stars on the history Channel or American Pickers, we are in it to resell it, not buy it for full blown retail. Pay for the appraisal, at least 5% to 10% of the appraised value. What you really want is a Low figure and a High figure, a range or Ballpark figure. Some dealers will inflate values just to get a higher payment for the appraisal, offer the item to them, if they are unwilling to pay at least 1/3 of the stated appraisal then you shouldn’t be dealing with them at all because they are not a legitimate expert in this field. Some people go from one dealer to another looking for what they want to be told in the first place and dismissing the one person that was actually honest with them! How do you know an honest appraisal from one that just doesn’t want to hurt your feelings, offer to pay for their knowledge. If you choose to sell it online (Ebay) be prepared to make 1/3 the value. With all the fees involved you will be getting more like ¼ the value. A legit dealer would more than want a great piece to resell in their shop! When I can’t afford something that I would want to have in my shop I will offer to put it on consignment, then we both, seller and consignor can have a worthwhile experience. I am always looking for GREAT vintage Kachinas, Pottery, Jewelry and Tramp Art to resell in my shop.
As I’ve said here even I’ve been taken, and have slowly but surely learned many lessons the hard way. I remain optimistic and trusting, and am willing and able to share my hard earned knowledge with my customers. If you made a purchase on the side of the road, at a Flea Market, at a Yard Sale or even in a shop and it seemed too good to be true, it probably is. The problem is if you spent too much on it, and received a discount, then you’ll have no recourse to return it. Over the years we have been in business 9 years here in Taos, and I am proud to say we have had fewer than 5 returns, I think the actual number may be 1, and not for reasons of legitimacy. A legitimate store or auction house will stand by what they are selling. We do not take returns, there are far too many people buying things to resell. They turn up looking for deals and discounts or something I may not know enough about, then once they were not able to 'flip' it quickly they suddenly want to return the item. Once it's in someone else's hands for resale it is their item to sell. 
Do as much research about an item that you possibly can. No one will ever be an expert of everything they offer to sell, everyone makes mistakes. Most items don't come with signatures or provenance or any history whatsoever. It is up to you whether or not to purchase an item or not. If you are purchasing something to resell, I wish you all the best in flipping it for more than you paid for it. Sometimes you lose money, sometimes you make money and sometimes you break even. 
This post is meant to be of some help and not to frighten you away from purchasing collectibles of any sort.
Both photographs on this post are by the photographer Brian Snyder to see more of his work please view his images at
These are two of my favorite photographs!

Friday, April 6, 2012

San Francisco de Asis Church, Ranchos de Taos, Part 3 (front)

This vintage photograph has been reversed, the bell is actually on the other side!
 A tiny village four miles south of Taos on State Highway 68 (between mile markers 41 & 42), Ranchos de Taos is home to the San Francisco de Asis Church (or the Ranchos Church) a National Historic Landmark. The church has been an inspiration for many great artists who’ve left us with a palpable sense of the people places and events of the past and present. Its heavy buttresses have been portrayed in all media since the early 20th Century, most famously by Georgia O’Keeffe, Ansel Adams, and Paul Strand. The ever changing light has made capturing the back of this structure a challenge to artists/photographers for over a century. The Plaza was here before the church was built; in the mid-1700s it was the most populated community in the vicinity. Most of the buildings in the old plaza contain parts of the original structure, some of these buildings are over 300 years old. This historic plaza was built on top of an abandoned Native American Village. The front of the Church faces away from the road revealing it’s famous backside to travelers as they arrive to Taos. This is not meant to confuse visitors it merely faces the original road in to Taos a branch of the Old Santa Fe Trail.

There are a few gravesites in the patio around the front of the Church
 Inside the parish office resides “The Shadow of the Cross” or “the Mystery Painting” by Henry Ault. A small fee is charged and you will also be shown a short video about the Church. These can be viewed Mon.-Fri. 9AM-4PM.

 Each spring the Church is re-plastered with a mixture of mud and straw by the local parishioners.  Once again work will begin this June with locals and visitors joining in for the “enjarre”, or re-mud.

 San Francisco de Asis Church visiting hours 9-4 Mon.-Sat. 575-751-0518      

 Sunday Mass Service 7AM Spanish, 9AM & 11:30AM Weekdays 6:45AM Mon, Tue, Wed, Fri                                                                                        

ca. 1940's with livestock corrals, during WW2 animals were kept in the safety of the Church Plaza

a rather awkward view capturing back buttresses and front steeple

First Light of a brand new day

Polaroid of Vigas

2012 updated Vigas

Even today this Church is an active and vital center for the community of Taos, note the horse & buggy!

 Before the pine trees
 The majestic Sphinx like front
 absolute front
 From across the parking area, Two Graces Plaza Gallery is located in the building to the right
 Priest and parishioner greet each other
at one point in the early 20's the Church fell into disrepair
 colorized linen postcard
 updated vehicle
 The extreme sunset
 Vintage linen postcard
 Vintage linen postcard, same view, different visitors
Young couple ca 1950's

Before he was the old guy he is today, your guide Robert Cafazzo
Once again here are a group of images of the great San Francisco de Asis Church in Ranchos de Taos. This grouping is of the front and without the very large pine trees blocking the view which have grown very, very tall.
I've been gathering these images for the past 25 years, many are vintage postcards, some are from State and National Archives and some are photographs I've taken myself.
If you choose to re-post any of these images please give me credit and a donation to the Church would be an admirable way to pay your respect.
Thank you very much

Thursday, April 5, 2012

San Francisco de Asis Church, Ranchos de Taos, Part 2 (interior)

 Vintage photograph personal collection Front of San Francisco de Asis Church, Ranchos de Taos
As you enter through the front doors of St. Francis please put away your camera and turn your cell phone off. The following images are from sources such as State and National Archives and are featured here to satisfy the curious and people who simply must have a photograph of the interior of San Francisco de Asis. If this doesn't quite suit your needs please purchase a postcard or small heavy card stock poster from the Church Gift Shop, they carry some beautiful images of the Reredo Altar Screens.
 The interior with some of the 14 stations of the Cross in view on the side walls.
 Vintage Black and White version. The floor and front doors have been recently replaced, the Church has also had a new roof resurfaced and repaired.
 The front Altar as it stood before the wooden carved framework was painted. The paintings here are said to be oil paintings brought to the Taos Church Courtesy of the Archdiocese in Mexico by way of Spain, almost 200 years ago.
 Closer view of the Main Altar with a more traditionally colored painted woodwork.
 Another view of the interior including one of several woodstoves pre-1930.
Throughout the seasons of the calendar year of the Church the group of ladies known as the Guadalupinas dress and decorate the interior for the appropriate High Holy Days. Whether stark or glorious, they do an amazing job.
The side Altar Reredo with some of the most beautiful Retablo paintings of Saints.
Top left to right "Our Lady of Sorrows",  "Our Lady of Immaculate Conception", & Unidentified
Middle Row left to right "Our Lady of Talpa", "The Crucifixion" & "Joseph, Mary & the Innkeeper"
Bottom left to right Unidentified, a Bulto carving of St. Francis w/Our Lady of Sorrows Bulto carvings, "St. Francis"
If you wish to say a prayer and light a candle you are asked to please purchase a candle from the Church Gift Shop, they only allow a very specific low burning candle, others can create a fire hazard. Once you've got your candle you may pass through the roped off area and say your prayers of remembrance for your loved ones. There are bits of straw to light candles with provided under the candle stands, please extinguish your lit straw in the sand bucket provided below as well.
From this photo you can see the image of "Our Lady of Guadalupe" to the left, this painting now hangs over the doorway to the left of the main altar.
Father Bill (William Hart McNichols) has created a large half moon retablo in a contemporary icon style painting which hangs over the door as you exit the Church. Please look up at it's wonder.
 As you turn to leave you will notice the balcony. Today it is roped off, I have been up to it and taken the opportunity to sing aloud from it's height. The sound is amazing even for this rather inadequate voice. For the past few years the Santa Fe Desert Chorale holds a concert in this Church, as I've never been fortunate to attend this or other concerts held here I don't know if they actually sing from the balcony or not.
Out of respect for the Church Community I chose not to include images which contained people. Today many people will take photographs inside during a Wedding, Baptism or First Communion, most would agree this is perfectly acceptable and a joyous occasion to capture a moment of.
I am reminded of an old Navajo Guide I'd hired to tour me through Canyon de Chelly, while I was taking pictures he remarked that I should put the camera away and attend the moment. That my memories of this moment on this day would last forever, he was of course very right.
Thank you very much.
This photograph is taken from the New Mexico Centennial Photo contest website, which participants are asked to re-create the 100 photographs they have chosen as iconic images around the State. I ask that you please refrain from taking image #51 and use instead the B&W image immediately above this one here. I think that will be sufficient, I have notified the Web site contest people of their mistake. Yesterday, April 6 the website contest people notified me that they had indeed made a mistake and that no harm was intended. They had thought the photo was of the inside of the Santurio de Chimayo where you are allowed to take photos of the interior.
If you choose to copy and paste any of these images for your own purpose again I ask that you in turn give a donation to the Church of San Francisco de Asis.

Good Friday Holy Week Easter in Taos, New Mexico

"Moon Over St. Francis" 2010 Cris Pulos copyright
Good Friday takes place this year on April 6, 2012.
(March 29, 2013)
On this day in Ranchos de Taos people will begin to gather in the plaza of the historic San Francisco de Asis Church before 10:30AM to walk or make a short pilgrimage to the Capilla in Talpa, La Capilla de Nuestra Senora de Talpa, a beautiful little outlier Church on the Talpa Ridge State Highway 518.
 The Capilla in Talpa
During the walk confession will be given towards the end of the line by the attending Priest, be it Father Bill, or Father Deano. Prayers for the 14 Stations of the Cross will be held along the way and in front of the Capilla, also in front of each of the 3 Moradas this journey will take us to. From there the group will continue walking on to the the Morada in Talpa off Maestas Road next to a beautifully maintained cemetery, and continue on to to the Morada just on Highway 518 also next to a beautiful cemetery. The pilgrimage continues on to the Morada on Espinosa Road next to a cemetery with a magnificent panoramic view of Taos Mountain.
A simple Gave marker
Some of the participants who may not be up to the journey will be driven to each place as they require. Inside each of the Moradas you may be seated at one of the benches or kneel at the altar and have a quite moment of prayer. I enjoyed the wonder of a beautiful Spring day in Taos, noticing the details in front yards of the homes we passed. At the beginning of the journey on Valerio Road a pair of mourning doves flew overhead, very magical and special.
Interior of a Morada, Vintage Photo
It may be best to bring a Bible with you a few prayer books copies are made for the attendees, often not enough for everyone.
Retablos & Bultos in the collection of the Millicent Rogers Museum
At around 2:30 the guests will be on their way back to the Church of St. Francis for a 3PM service, followed by a 3:30 Mass. There may have been 300 people or more on this day a great turn out. Each year this pilgrimage changes slightly, I had originally reported what I'd been told about previous Good Friday celebrations. This year it seems was quite different, some said it was the most beautiful Good Friday they had ever participated in.
Vintage Photograph of the Capilla in Talpa
Although this is quite a long day to spend in Prayer, I believe you will find it to be one of the most refreshing days of your life. This year I myself plan to attend, the weather should be beautiful, yet I expect the interior of each Morada to be cool, so bring a lightweight sweater. Note: Each Morada had a fire lit in the fireplace making for quite a cozy stop. The hosts also provided food for everyone. Vehicles which helped with traffic control also provided fruit and water to the participants.
Backside of Abiquiu Morada
(As for toilet facilities I actually don't expect any to be available, there may be an outhouse, but you are warned to not drink that second cup of coffee this morning)
The Penitente Man, vintage Photograph, A life size figure of Christ carrying a Cross is normally next to an 'active' Morada
All are invited to join and participate in the services at the Moradas on Good Friday in Ranchos de Taos, you need not be an 'invited guest'. If you are in doubt of how to act or what to do, you should simply and humbly ask the person next to you or in front of you for some guidance. As in: "I'm not quite certain how to participate would you mind if I follow along with you?" 
To my eye I think of the 3 Wisemen when I see these Crosses
What is frowned upon is people attending just to be onlookers and not partake in the wonder of the moment, (although if you have not partaken in confession you should never follow the other Church goers to receive communion of the Host and Wine). 
A Pueblo Dragonfly Cross with the Dixon Mountain behind it and it's own Crosses atop.
Whether you follow any Religious Faith or not, you should be able and willing to attend this religious event with a bit of respectful humility. 
A Penitente Pilgrimage, vintage photograph

Please leave your cameras behind and turn your phone off, do not be tempted to use either.
A Simple Grave Marker can often be the most beautiful
Leaving early would be akin to leaving a dinner party before you've finished the main dish, you could if you had to, but you shouldn't. During much of the walk I was greeted by neighbors some I knew and some I'd never met, walking along with me. I also noticed people taking the time to check on each other, this is a rather strenuous walk. Most of the last third of the journey I was blessed to walk with Father Bill. Parishioners and non Church members LOVE Father Bill, he is a magnificent man, kind, gentle and open to talking not just about matters of the Church, but he is a delight to speak with about life, art, Taos, and so many other topics. I think Father Bill was a bit worried about me and noticed at some point I really wasn't fairing well, he stuck with me just in case.
Vintage photograph The Four Horsemen of the Camposanto
The walk from St. Francis to the 3 Moradas would be considered a 'pilgrimage' or 'processional' although today there is no flogging, walking on knees, or any of the other more severe flagellations attributed to this day by the Penitente.
Bird's Eye View of Morada with Mabels House in background
Although someone will find something written here 'offensive' or may argue a point of fact, writing about anything as you know these days may be done by any author, it is best to be respectful and be positive when writing anything. Even trying to simply report an event, someone out there may not like it. 
Then again lately I've seen many people recording and videotaping this sort of thing for the simple fact of these rituals need to be recorded and saved for future generations.
One of the many Church Bells of New Mexico
A few years ago a reporter came to cover the Penitente pilgrimage to Chimayo, she couldn't even take pictures without feeling like she shouldn't be taking photos and couldn't write a story on the subject because not only was it all very foreign to her but because she didn't know what or who to ask and how to behave with humility and respect. She treated it as something to report on, not something to open herself up to.
The Abiquiu Morada with a Penitent Man
Speaking with my Mom she reminds me of a similarity that takes place on Good Friday in the North End of Boston or "Little Italy", more than likely a variation happens across the world. In the North End people will be walking from one to the other little Chapel that each feature and are dedicated to various Saints, along with attending Mass at Saint Leonard of Port Maurice Church on Hanover Street.
Taos Morada
As I am not a 'member' of the Church, I am looked at as an outsider, Catholic still, but not a 'member'. My family history includes Saint Joseph Cafasso, patron Saint of prisoners in Turin. I respect the religion and feel great love and responsibility towards Religion but I usually choose not to partake. I have my reasons and ask you to respect me for them without digging deeper, thank you.
The walk to this Cross at the end of a Pueblo right of way brings you past the 14 Stations of the Cross markers of stone
This post is meant to provide a bit of information to anyone wishing to attend this calendar day of Good Friday in Taos. Although the processions and pilgrimage to the Santurio de Chimayo may be the best known I believe the intimacy of this day in Taos will make it quite special for all participants. This was my first time as a participant on this walk, a total of 6 miles. At an altitude of 7,200 feet above sea level this is not a walk for everyone, it is more strenuous, and I am more out of shape than I would have thought. The lead men were often asked to slow the pace down a bit. I choose not to write about the accoutrements of this day, the crosses, carvings, paintings I was allowed to witness, those special items worn or carried by my fellow attendees and the items inside the Chapel and Moradas. All of it very very special and of a moment in time in Taos.
The vista from Espinosa Road

All color photographs are my own Robert Cafazzo and Copyright 2012, if you wish to use any of my photographs please ask, I only require that you give credit and I ask you to consider a donation to the Church, thank you.
 I asked and was granted permission to take photographs at places that I believed I should ask permission first.
The Cris Pulos photograph of "Moon Over St. Francis" is posted here by permission of this wonderful Taos photographer. For prints of this photograph please contact Mr. Pulos through his website or contact Two Graces Plaza Gallery for more information, our contact information is located in the sidebar of this blog.
The Vintage Black and White photos are courtesy of the National and State Archives.

Please Note, I have added and corrected a bit of the information from the original post of April 5, on April 7 the day after I attended the actual event.
As some of you may know on April 6, 2012 during the pilgrimage walk I suffered a Heart Attack. As I've stated in this post I wasn't feeling well at some point with severe pain in my forearms and extraordinary upper chest pain. Father Bill stayed with me as I continued on, watching and guiding me, he thought at some point I should not continue, yet I felt obliged to do so. I kept thinking to myself if Christ could do what he did, then I could do this wonderful pilgrimage walk, my own obligation. When the walk was over I went home to rest and took a bath. Over the next 9 days the heart attacks continued until I finally agreed to seek medical attention. A trip to the emergency room in Taos and a helicopter ride to the St. Cristus Hospital in Santa Fe where 3 stents were inserted and an angioplasty, saving my life. This has been a long difficult recovery, my goal is to be strong enough this year to walk this pilgrimage again. A stress test this past week indicates that I am recovering and that I am indeed getting stronger. There are cars available to help anyone not feeling well enough to continue and in the thin mountain air it is not advisable to take this journey, please do not push yourself as I did. I am blessed to still be here today. As for my journey into Heart Disease, when I feel the time is right I will try to write a post about it.
R 2/17/13