Tuesday, May 27, 2008


For decades Santa Muerte has been present in the tough neighborhoods of Mexico City, where prostitutes and drug traffickers worshiped her mostly in secret. Last month, a group devoted to the icon made her over, giving the figure long, brown hair and a rose to hold in an attempt to change her image and win Mexican government recognition.

But as Mexican immigrants journey north, devotion to Santa Muerte has grown immensely in Chicago, Los Angeles, Tucson, Ariz., and other urban areas. In one of the more unusual religious phenomena to cross the border, statuettes, candles, charms and medallions of the skeletal figure are sold in supermarkets, dollar stores, malls and flea markets.

Often, Santa Muerte stands near statues of Catholic images of Jesus, the Virgin of Guadalupe, St. Peter or St. Lazarus. Moreover, followers are no longer limited to the lowest sectors of society. In the Chicago area, young people, housewives and grandmothers purchase the icon and speak openly about her power and their faith.

'I respect her,' said Brenda Alfaro, 25, who works in a Chicago store where Santa Muerte items are sold. 'She represents death, and that's something we are all going to face one day. She's everywhere now, and it's because of the faith people have in her. It's almost like a new religion.'

In Mexico, the Catholic Church has spoken against Santa Muerte, saying she is linked to Satanism and is being used to mislead desperate people. Catholic priests leading large Mexican-American congregations in the Chicago area are confronting questions about Santa Muerte and what she represents.

Read it here.

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