santamurte-mxcathI found it interesting that the El Paso Times had a piece about the Pope’s recent visit and the rise of the worship of the Santa Muerte in Mexico. Any understanding of Mexican culture and its relationship with the Catholic faith understands that the worship of Santa Muerte is part of the dichotomy between Catholicism and its Mexican version. I previously wrote about how Mexican Catholicism does not follow the Catholic doctrine as professed by Rome and is tolerated by the Catholic faith because of Rome’s need for parishioners from a country as large as Mexico.

As I previously wrote, Mexicans are Catholic but in a truly Mexican way. This is readily apparent when a parishioner attends a Catholic mass in Mexico, or in many parts of the Southwest United States and then attends a service in Europe or the northern United States. Mexican Catholicism focuses on mysticism often revolving around the power of saints. To be sure, saints are an important component of the Catholic faith but in Mexico the saints often raise to the level of God in practice.

Historically, this is a product of the continued fight between our cultural revolt against the Spanish invasion of Mexico and our cultural evolution of it. As Mexicans we still practice many pagan rituals in our daily lives but we have integrated them into our culture and for the Catholics into the Catholic faith. Curanderismo is very much a part of the Mexican psyche and when viewed with a critical eye it is understood for what it is, a pagan health ritual. Looking past the Catholic façade it is easy to see that praying to a saint is just substituting a saint for an Aztec god from our past.

The Spanish may have subjugated that indigenous populations but it did not destroy the spirit of what it is to be a mestizo. As Mexicans we continue to fight our inner demons through the smoke-and-mirrors that our culture has evolved into but deep within ourselves we are a mixture of Indian and Spanish that is best described as being mestizo.

Once this is understood then it becomes apparent why worshiping Santa Muerte is not as alien as it seems, even though it is assumed that Mexico is predominantly a Catholic nation.

Under this context, it makes sense that religion would be central to the indoctrination of sicarios into the service of the drug dealers. Killing does not come easy to most people, especially Mexicans. Spiritually we delve too deeply on what the afterlife will be as evidenced by El Dia de los Muertos. It is part of our Mexican psyche.

Martin Paredes

Martín Paredes is a Mexican immigrant who built his business on the U.S.-Mexican border. As an immigrant, Martín brings the perspective of someone who sees México as a native through the experience...

2 replies on “Santa Muerte Should Not Surprise Anyone”

  1. Well said, Martin. As long as you are probing the depths of the Mexican psyche, consider another character who lives down there – the Revolutionary. We see him not only as Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata, but in his shadow aspect, too, e.g., the bandito (“I don’t need no stinkin’ badge” and the cartel lord.

    El Paso would benefit from a Zapata or two doing a little rabble rousing in city hall, IMO.

  2. The understanding that some people have regarding the “communion of saints” is plain wrong and prohibited by Catholic teaching. That being said, Mexican culture keeps the mestizaje in many facets of daily life.

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