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Because the White Girl appeals to many members of marginalized social groups, including criminal elements, it is little wonder that the growth in the Santa Muerte movement has also been fueled by economic turbulence in Latin American countries, including Mexico, as well as the ongoing war against the powerful cartels that essentially control the U.S.-Mexico border’s drug trade that has cost more than 40,000 lives already, with victims and perpetrators alike seeking her assistance (Flanigan, 2014). More significantly, though, the growing numbers of Santa Muerte followers also come from all walks of life despite the large percentage of marginalized individuals who earn their livings on the fringes of society, largely by their wits and frequently through criminal enterprises, and Santa Muerte draws all of them because of the nonjudgmental and powerful interventions she has consistently manifested time and again over the years. As noted in the preface, the purpose of this book is to introduce readers to the fascinating background, history and rituals that are typically used by devotees of Santa Muerte to help dispel the several misunderstanding concerning these practices and how they operate. This is the first book that is specifically intended for devotees wanting to learn more about Santa Muerte but also for people who simply want to learn about these phenomena and the mysteries that are associated with Santa Muerte. The information that follows is intended to address these needs and the directions for future research that concludes the book will serve as food for additional thought for those interested in the Death Saint today.Chapter One:  Background and History of Santa Muerte and Other Secular SaintsBackground and OverviewTo her millions of followers around the world, Santa Muerte goes by many names, some of them flattering (i.e., “Grandmother” or “White Girl”) and some which are more reflective of her various skeletal appearances (i.e., “Bony Lady” or “Saint Death”). Regardless of the name by which she is known, though, Santa Muerte has increasingly been considered as a life-changing answer to her devotees’ prayers (Ugarte, 2017). For instance, one Tepito, Mexico devotee, Juan Carlos Avila Mercado, a former Catholic priest, reports that attendance at his Sunday services has grown steadily in recent months, and some attendees are even arriving at his services crawling on their knees in humble supplication to this secular saint. It is important to note that Tepito is a Mexico City neighborhood that is known for its notorious black market, general criminality rates and overall low income levels, so it is perhaps not surprising that the marginalized residents of this community have turned to Santa Muerte when nothing else seems to work to improve the quality of their lives. Indeed, devotees firmly believe that Santa Muerte is always with them, needing only to be acknowledged and worshiped in an appropriate but highly individualized fashion. For instance, according to Mercado, “Santa Muerte chooses them and has always been with us. We are born and we die with death” (as cited in Ugarte, 2017, p. 13).  Prior to 2001, Santa Muerte devotees primarily worshiped in private by building small personal shrines in their homes but the construction of a public shrine in 2001 in Tepito served as the catalyst to fuel public adulation of the White Girl throughout Mexico and beyond. The Tepito-based Santa Muerte devotee who build the first life-sized public altar, Enriqueta Romero (aka Dofia Queta) on a sidewalk in front of her home together with Enriqueta Vargas, have become the de facto religious leaders of the rapidly growing Santa Muerte movement (Arreola, 2016). As discussed further in the chapters that follow, the origins of Santa Muerte purportedly date to pre-Hispanic times; however, authorities such as Chesnut maintain that her actual origins can be traced back to the Spanish Conquistadors who brought her over as a means of evangelizing the indigenous populations of Latin American as the female personification of death.  In this regard, Agren (2014) reports that:  “Certain indigenous groups made her a holy figure, which she never was in the European context. The devotion went underground for centuries, until anthropologists discovered women practicing love magic with Santa Muerte, pleading for help with their wayward spouses” (p. 28). 

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