Devoted to Death: Santa Muerte, the Skeleton Saint by R. Andrew Chesnut

By R. Andrew Chesnut

R. Andrew Chesnut bargains a desirable portrayal of Santa Muerte, a skeleton saint whose cult has attracted thousands of devotees during the last decade. even supposing condemned through mainstream church buildings, this people saint's supernatural powers attract hundreds of thousands of Latin americans and immigrants within the U.S. Devotees think the Bony woman (as she is affectionately referred to as) to be the quickest and premier miracle employee, and as such, her statuettes and paraphernalia now outsell these of the Virgin of Guadalupe and Saint Jude, different giants of Mexican religiosity. specifically, Chesnut indicates Santa Muerte has turn into the consumer saint of drug traffickers, enjoying a tremendous function as protector of peddlers of crystal meth and marijuana; DEA brokers and Mexican police usually locate her altars within the secure homes of drug smugglers. but Saint loss of life performs different very important roles: she is a supernatural healer, love physician, money-maker, legal professional, and angel of dying. She has develop into surely essentially the most renowned and robust saints on either the Mexican and American spiritual landscapes.

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Extra info for Devoted to Death: Santa Muerte, the Skeleton Saint

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4 This, along with evidence from Argentina, would seem to point toward an extraordinary fusion of the figure of Christ, the Just Judge, with the Grim Reaper. In his insightful study of Latin American folk saints, Frank Graziano mentions two monikers for the Argentine saint of death, San La Muerte, which associate the male skeleton saint with Jesus. 5 This is the representation of the despondent, defeated Christ after his flogging and before his death on the cross. Hence indigenous groups in both central Mexico and northwest Argentina and Paraguay made the same syncretic association between two of the main figures of Catholic evangelization efforts—the Grim Reaper and Jesus.

DEATH CLOSE TO HOME While Santa Muerte and her followers have yet to make headlines here in the United States, the extent to which her cult has expanded here in the past few years is astonishing. When I started thinking about her growing presence in this country, I assumed that I would have to head to the border or to cities such as Los Angeles and Houston to find the White Sister being venerated by her Mexican and Central American adherents. From my home in central Virginia I figured the closest I might find the skeleton saint would be in the Washington, DC, area, ninety miles to the north.

STARRING DEATH Reflecting her growing popularity, Santa Muerte went from starring in small-town dramas to making her national cinematic debut in the 1976 movie El miedo no anda en burro (Fear doesn’t ride a donkey). A campy, comedic horror flick featuring one of the most beloved characters of Mexican cinema, La India Maria (Maria, the Indian), played by the prolific actress Maria Elena Velasco, the movie includes a surreal scene involving the Bony Lady. As an old man in a wheelchair plays a creepy dirge on an organ, La India Maria, while staring at the image of Santa Muerte above the keyboard, sings a macabre song recalling the role of the Grim Reapress in coming for the dead and taking them to their resting places.

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