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Santa Muerte: Mexico’s Saint of Death

By R. Andrew Chesnut

While tens of thousands of Mexicans have lost their lives in the ongoing drug war, millions more have become devoted to death. Saint Death (Santa Muerte) is a skeletal folk saint whose cult has proliferated on both sides of the border over the past decade. The Grim Reapress (she’s a female figure) has rapidly become one of the most popular and powerful saints on both the Mexican and American religious landscapes. Although condemned as satanic by both Catholic and Protestant churches, she appeals to millions of Mexicans and Latin American immigrants in the U.S. on the basis of her reputedly awesome supernatural powers. Devotees believe the Bony Lady (one of her common monikers) to be the fastest and most efficacious miracle worker, and, as such, sales of her statuettes and votive candles now rival those of the Virgin of Guadalupe and Saint Jude, the two giants of Mexican religiosity!

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