Sunday, August 21

"LA SANTA MUERTE" -- MEXICAN DEATH CULT MAY MIGRATE TO THE UNITED STATES

In the spring of this year, Mexico's government rescinded its official recognition of a fast-growing cult of death whose patron saint -- "La Santa Muerta" -- is, according to Ioan Grillo of the "Houston Chronicle's" Foreign Service, a Mexican folk saint, "a grim reaperlike figure dressed in a woman's robes," to whom Catholic Church officials say violent people pray "looking for protection from death." Grillo cites estimates from David Romo, a self-styled archbishop of the cult, that more than 2 million Mexicans now pray to this "life-size skeleton in a glittering robe."

Although this aberrant religious sect had registered with Mexico's Interior Department in 2003 declaring its principal aim was to "conserve the Holy Tridentine Mass of the Catholic Church," it has been denounced by the Catholic Church as "an aberration of Christian doctrine" and has no connection, official or otherwise, with the Roman Catholic Church. Nonetheless, an independent church in the heart of El Tapito -- a crime-ridden slum neighborhood in Mexico City -- that is grounded in the worship of La Santa Muerta, calls itself the Traditionalist Catholic Mexico-U.S.A. Church, and, according to Ioan Grillo, has "incorporated the death figure into its weekly services and encourages its worshippers to ask her for miracles."

Grillo, in his story, notes that the iconoclastic worshippers of La Santa Muerta "accept the use of contraceptive devices, divorce, and homosexuality," thus breaking with the Catholic Church, and claim that they are the people of Mexico who "the Vatican has forgotten." But such patent propaganda is belied by the fact, according to Homero Aridjis, who has written a book on the subject, that (and I quote from Grillo's report) "there are definite links between the death worshippers and organized crime."

A story published in the "Taipei Times" points to antecedents in Mexico's history for this kind of bizarre, occult worship:

Mexicans have long had a complex relationship with death. Ancient indigenous cultures worshipped a god of death called Mictlantecuhtli, and the Aztecs believed mass human sacrifice was vital to feed the gods and keep the life cycle going.

Even after the Spanish conquest brought Catholicism to the region, Mexicans retained a strong pagan devotion to death, as seen by their celebration every November of the Day of the Dead when they erect altars to the dead in their homes and prepare elaborate meals for the departed souls. It is akin to Roman Catholics' observation on Nov. 2 of All Souls' Day, when they pray for the souls of the faithful departed.

"The cult to Santa Muerte is a syncretism between the Catholic Church and pre-Colombian worship of death," Aridjis said.

An Associated Press (AP) story ( carried in "ReligionNewsBlog.com"), cites the cult's efforts at legitimacy:

David Romo Guillen, the self-styled Bishop of the church's main shrine in a tough downtown Mexico City neighborhood, said the death-worshippers would not be deterred.

"We are going to carry on despite this," Romo Guillen said. "We are going to hold various mobilizations to stop this injustice."

In March, hundreds of death worshippers carrying statues of the grim reaper and white flowers marched through downtown Mexico City Friday to demand respect for their religion.

They complained that, because the group draws most of its followers from rough neighborhoods and prisons, society at large tends to brand them as criminals or drug addicts.
But the Catholic Church remains troubled by this phenomenon and rejects its claims of convention and orthodoxy:

The Roman Catholic Church says the veneration of St. Death is growing in Mexico despite attempts by priests to stop it. There are 40 shrines to Death in Mexico City and about 400 nationwide, said David Romo Guillen, bishop of the Traditional Catholic Church Mex-USA, which runs the Mercy Church and has become the most visible promoter of St. Death. There are five prayer groups in California, Oregon and Washington, D.C., Romo said, but none in Arizona.

"It has become a fad, and it's growing very quickly," said Sergio Roman, a Roman Catholic official who oversees the priesthood in Mexico City. "People have taken death and personified it. They've made it almost like a god."
Most disturbing, again referencing back to Ioan Grillo's piece in the "Houston Chronicle," is that Carlos Garma, an anthropologist at Mexico's Autonomous University, who is well-versed on the subject and has written on it, says that "Mexican people have taken easily to the Santa Muerte in the same way they have traditionally taken to unofficial saints." And, as Grillo writes:

Garma predicts that conditions are favorable for the Santa Muerte group to spread throughout the continent. "The climate is ripe for this belief to grow," Garma said. "It is only a matter of time before the Santa Muerte is in the United States."
With 11+ million illegal aliens in this country, the vast majority of whom are Mexican nationals who emigrated illegally to the United States, and with over 25% of the federal prison population now comprised of illegal aliens (and with thousands more in state prisons and local jails), it's not a leap in logic to suggest that this cult of death and idolatrous worship of La Santa Muerta will become yet another deleterious by-product of our nation's porous borders and yet another harmful renting of this nation's cultural fabric and religious ethos.

As Ioan Grillo reports:

Among other such folk saints venerated in Mexico are Juan Soldado ("Juan the Soldier") of Tijuana, whose spirit is believed to protect migrants who cross illegally into the united States, and Jesus Malverde of Sinaloa, who some say is the saint of drug traffickers.
Is this the sort of aberrant, pseudo-religious phenomenon we want gaining a foothold in our land?

How sadly ironic that both major political parties in this country (and most certainly the Bush Administration) are seen vying fiercely for religious voters and playing the "religion card" without compunction, while ignoring for too long now the thorny problem of illegal immigration and the homeland security threat that is our nation's porous borders. And now that very dereliction may usher in, along with all of the other social maladies that attend illegal immigration, a death cult worship born of poverty, crime, and craftly-camouflaged, atavistic paganism.

Welcome to the world of multi-culturalism.