At last! Another death cult, closer to home

No head-chopping demanded by this new cult, but quite interesting all the same. The link goes to a long study of the cult of “Santa Muerte”, Saint Death, who looks like a girl with a death’s head (butterface!) and is a growing object of devotion among Mexican drug traffickers and gangs…

In addition to the major drug cartels, the cult also seems to have reached the infamous Latin American youth gangs. On 27 March 2005, Milenio journalist Juan Dios Garcia Davish published an interview with Carlos Eduardo Pavon AKA El Cuervo, a Honduran citizen and a leader of the gang Mara Salvatrucha AKA MS-13. At the time of the interview, Pavon was incarcerated in the Tapachula State Prison in Tapachula, Chiapas. He had been arrested in December 2003. During the interview, Pavon accused the news media of publishing lies about Mara Salvatrucha. While carrying a wallet with the image of Santa Muerte, Pavon denied apparent allegations that his gang is Satanic, stating, “You are not satanic just because you leave a couple of candles lit. We only believe in God. No one else, not even in Our Lady of Guadalupe.” However, Pavon then laughed at the interviewer. He later revealed the tattoos on his back, which included a large “MS13”, male and female clown faces, the words “Satanic Member”, and a skeletal hand of death.

…and your regular-variety illegal immigrants:

Illegal migrants have been praying to Santa Muerte, carrying images of Santa Muerte in their clothing and giving thanks to her for their crossing. It is through these illegal migrants that Santa Muerte seems to be spreading to the U.S. …

In some ways, Santa Muerte is a logical choice of patron for would-be illegal migrants. Crossing the border is often dangerous, simply because of the terrain, and illegal migrants must consider the risk of death when preparing for their journeys. Furthermore, illegal migrants frequently come under the criminal influence if not guidance of human smugglers and drug traffickers. Finally, the action itself is by definition a crime, an action for which a person might not expect a traditional saint to offer protection.

I wouldn’t read too much into this except as anthropology, although the theology is interesting too: We’re doing bad things, so we need a bad saint. I suppose everyone has spiritual needs, even criminals.

That said, it’s pretty dad-gum creepy.

P.S. Confidential to Bruce Wilkinson, et al:

Because its practitioners do not seem to seek any spiritual enlightenment, simply favors and rewards, the cult of Santa Muerte is probably best described as not so much a religion as an esoteric practice wrapped in the trappings of a religious movement.