The Santa Muerte cult of Mexico…
A goddess worshipped with cigarettes and alcohol in a Mexico City backstreet shrine? That’ll be La Santa Muerte.
I was 24 years old and living in Mexico City when I first encountered the Saint of Death. The image of the grim reaper was everywhere in Mexico; it dangled from the rear-view mirror of nearly every taxi and bus, and was sold in the markets at the witchcraft stalls among the herbs, candles and images of Mary and Jesus.
Here, the personification of death was known by a different name – La Santa Muerte, the Saint of Death. Although many of her devotees would happily classify their beliefs as Catholic, the church does not agree that the Grim Reaper is a saint. Some bishops condemn her followers as devil worshippers; others argue that it’s just an unfortunate theological misunderstanding. Regardless, the Santa Muerte “cult” is the fastest-growing religious sect in Mexico, with more than two million followers in Mexico City alone.
It fascinated me how death itself could be considered a saint. I had read that in pre-Columbian cultures images of skeletons often symbolised health and fertility. And I liked the fact that this rogue saint, who was not a concoction of the Catholic church, was busily winning over hearts and minds. I wanted to learn more..
Photograph: In Mexico City, figurines of Santa Muerte are displayed outside the shrine, Jan Sochor/Alamy
Click through to read the rest of this short but interesting article by Lucy Neville of The Guardian, which caught my eye as I’m off to Mexico myself next month…meeps!