La Santa Muerte and How She Might Immigrate

Altar a la Santa Muerte, courtesy of Patricio López (Flickr)

Altar a la Santa Muerte, courtesy of Patricio López (Flickr)

A startling new trend in Mexico, our neighboring country, is death worship. While death worship may conjure up images of sacrificial acts or some kind of morbid fascination with the dead, it is actually much more difficult to define. Claiming to be an extension of the Catholic Church, inmates and drug cartel members began the worship of “saint death” as a way of retaining the traditional Catholic belief systems of most Mexicans. After all of the atrocities that these prisoners and gang members have committed, the idea of a divine presence that never leaves one’s side is all too appealing. The instances they face everyday involving death serve as a constant reminder of La Santa Muerte‘s presence. This new method of “religious devotion” at first seemed harmless and strange, but has quickly spiraled out of control. Worship of Saint Death at one time followed very traditional Catholic practices, but it has evolved to include any type of practice or action that attributes such worship to death’s ever-inclusive religion. This change in religious practice allowed people light up weed instead of incense to make a holy place so that an idol of Saint Death could breathe in the smoke. Here we see a direct connection to the drug cartels from which Saint Death stemmed, but it doesn’t stop there. More recently, the arrest of eight people for the murder of two children and a woman are alarming progressions for a religion that claims to be an offshoot of the Catholic Church.

Mexico has seen dark times, and death has been rampant in a country at war with its drug cartels.  However, the danger that resides in the uprising of La Santa Muerte lies in its inherent spread. An idol that applies to everyone and forgives anything has an obvious appeal, but without rules or preachers to guide its growth, more cases like the arrest of eight people and the death of three are bound to grow. Its popularity is obvious to any who know to look, to the point that worship of death has almost become mainstream. It’s not just the people of Mexico who’ve taken note of such happenings. The Vatican has officially denounced such actions as heresy, even though many of the practitioners still consider themselves devout Catholics. While it may be an isolated case at the moment, the traffic and migration between Mexico and the U.S. will spread the worship of La Santa Muerte to our country. A problem in Mexico will quickly become a problem for the U.S., and when it does, it’ll come with a fury.

Thanks to National Geographic News and Alma Guillermoprieto’s “The Vatican and Santa Muerte“.

4 responses to “La Santa Muerte and How She Might Immigrate

  1. Wow! The Santa Muerte seems as an excuse for people to justify their bad actions. Do you think that the case of Mexico will be the same in the United States or might Mexican police system being so lenient have something to do with the use of La Santa Muerte?

  2. I worry that this recent trend will hinder progress to more lenient immigration policy. I feel that Americans, and particularly American politicians, will be intimidated by “death worship”. It will be viewed as foreign and blasphemous. Despite its roots in Christianity, death worship will be perceived as witchcraft and broaden cultural borders.

  3. Very interesting! I think this shows quite clearly how social context affects cultures. Here, the incredibly violent environment caused by drug cartels and gangs have created a new saint entirely.

  4. I wonder if participants in coyote capitalism use death worship as a justification for their actions, since a religion that forgives anything may reduce the fear of performing this underground business. If there is some sort of link between this industry and death worship, the spread of La Santa Muerte will soon be felt in all regions affected by global migration. This is a fascinating post because it gives insight into the culture of the immigrants that may be coming to the United States; while we are often so focused on the integration of immigrants into “our American” culture, we forget the practices that immigrants bring themselves.

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