LA SANTA MUERTE is threatening Jesus Christ. And she don’t mess. Those who champion Mister Christ are lashing back. Or perhaps we might say the Mexican Oligarchy is acting like terrorists and destroying symbols that are dear to groups of people who frustrate them. However you word it, the People are under seige on more than one front.
I’ve written a few things here about Felipe Calderón (FeCal) and his misguided US-prompted War on the Cartels. That’s a very big story, with a lot of capillaries that run off of it and touch other parts of the world and México’s history, too. And there are many points of view one can travel while mapping those histories. For now, let’s take one branch down Nuevo Laredo way.
President Felipe Calderon has launched an army assault on Mexico’s drug gangs, but the increased firepower has failed to contain the violence, with some 6,300 people killed last year.
In 2007, gunmen from the powerful Gulf Cartel handcuffed three men and shot them dead at a Santa Muerte altar in Nuevo Laredo, leaving lit candles, flowers and a taunting message for rivals.
Ah, La Santa Muerte. She is the refuge for those who are judged everywhere else and find no shelter until they find her. She is a favorite of Narcos, and many others who live on the margins of society, you see.
For decades, thousands in some of Mexico’s poorest neighborhoods have prayed to Santa Muerte for life-saving miracles. Or death to enemies. Mexican authorities have linked Santa Muerte’s devotees to prostitution, drugs, kidnappings and homicides.
“Linked” her? Interesting. Fingerprints? DNA? Is she peeking out from the background of crime scene polaroids? Forgive me, just seemed an odd phrase.
We know she will have many enemies when her disciples are these sorts of people. And as she promises to love them all equally—quite Christlike of her—she is dearly revered by them.
Either way, the Mexican army has launched an offensive against this icon, bulldozing 30 shrines built to Santa Muerte in Nuevo Laredo and Tijuana just last month. What was their excuse for this sacrilege? Apparently they were “built without the proper licenses.”
But wait, is it really sacrilege? Nope. Turns out bulldozing or otherwise smashing to pieces the shrines dedicated to Santa Muerte is not only State-sanctioned, but Church-sanctioned, too. After all, Doña Sebastiana (or Lady Sebastienne) is an offense against the very idea that Christ was resurrected. She is, the Catholic Church will tell you, a pagan figure, and officially has condemned any observance of La Santisima Muerte (The Most Holy Death) as “devil worship.”
That’s pretty strong. But when it comes to México, and when the Catholic Church begins condemning pagan icons in México, we do have to remember that this is how the very first holy oppressors appeared to the Indians back in the early 1500s. With a GOD that demanded their other gods die, and the destruction of their written histories…and so on.
Clearly, those demands and that destruction has not stopped. And apparently, the people are still not subjugated to a conquest begun almost 500 years ago. Which is why this post is in a category called “The Long War on the Indigenous.”
Santa Muerte’s precise origins are a matter of debate. Some experts say its roots lie with Aztec spiritual rituals that mixed with Catholicism during Spanish colonial rule. What is clear, however, is that Santa Muerte developed a large following only in the last quarter century among Mexicans who had become disillusioned with the dominant Church and, in particular, the ability of established Catholic saints to deliver them from poverty. Residents of crime-tossed neighborhoods like Mexico City’s Tepito began revering Santa Muerte more than Jesus Christ, experts say. Some of its devotees eventually split from the Catholic church and began vying for control of Catholic buildings. That’s when Mexico’s Catholic church declared it a cult.
—Santa Muerte: The New God in Town, Time
And so the particulars are a little clearer. If your idol has let you down, and in the face of that, demands too much in hard times you create another idol in your own image. One that only asks for devotion and judges not.
“All you have to do is believe and ask and she delivers,” Sanchez said. “The Santa Muerte does not discriminate.”
As La Santa Muerte requires no middle man to collect her tithing and better yet, delivers on the prayers sent her way, she begins to replace the former idol. And you and I know this will never do. Dios Mio! Was the Inquisition for nothing, then???
Yet another instance today where huge entrenched powers see their grip slipping away as the People take it on themselves to remedy longstanding ills. It is still not in these entrenched powers’ interest to cure the People’s ails at their core, but instead to patch them over or repress them and continue to shore up their own power with flimsy lines justifying the oppression. This behavior is wreaking untold damage from the US to Somalia and I’m sure in many, many other places. These are patterns that repeat.
“It isn’t fair to repress our faith just because there are some narcos who believe in La Santisima too,” Isidro Pastrana, a middle-aged cook and cross-dresser, said as he walked along with a papier-mache scythe in his hand. “Our faith is much bigger than them.”
More numerous than drug lords and other underworld operators are the devotees drawn from the vast numbers of Mexicans living on the edge of personal disaster and on the fringes of legality. They ask the Santa Muerte for protection and for favours, at least in part, because they have no faith in the institutions around them.
Men such as Sergio Hernandez, a 24-year-old toilet cleaner, who insists he was falsely accused of car stealing last year, but doesn’t believe his innocence has anything to do with the freedom he enjoys today.
He recalled during the Palm Sunday march: “I really thought I was going to have to spend a few years in prison, but I appealed to the holy Santa Muerte and when the verdict came they let me go. These are the kind of things that really make you believe in her.”
Of course, in reaction to the desecration of La Santa Muerte’s capillas, Mexicanos are taking to the streets in number. That’s just the way la gente roll.
Worshipers of the cult figure plan to march through Mexico City later on Good Friday in the latest of a series of protests after soldiers and police bulldozed elaborate roadside shrines to the death saint near the northern border with Texas. …
“We are doing these marches because there has been a lot of aggression from the government … It seems like they are fighting a holy war,” said 52-year-old vendor Ernesto Hernandez at a protest last week.