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Estimated year of creation: Its roots are in the cult of the gods Mictlantecuhtli and Mictecacihuatl, from the Mexica mythology. Mictēcacihuātl (Nahuatl: [mik.teː.ka.ˈsí. Waːt͡ɬ], literally means: "Woman of the Dead"), and is the queen goddess of Mictlān, the underworld; Therefore, its possible creation can be located around the year 1300 AD. This belief was professed before and after the arrival of the Spaniards to Mexico, and finally, updated as a sect during the second half of the 20th century, under the name of the " Holy death".

Main books: Unknown.

World headquarters: Mexico.

Main deity: Mictecacihuatl.

Number of faithful around the world: 10 million.

Prophets: Unknown.

Main Symbols of Santa Muerte:

Basic principles of Santa Muerte:

Despite being a death cult professed by criminals, murderers and drug traffickers, Santa Muerte has gained popularity within contemporary society, and has assumed an increasingly prominent and controversial role in the Day of the Dead festivities that are celebrated. every November 1 and 2. Also known as the Bony Lady, followers of Santa Muerte say her appeal lies in her impartial nature and her supposed ability to grant wishes in exchange for promises or offerings.

If you know anything about Santa Muerte, it could be from Breaking Bad or other popular depictions that show drug traffickers worshiping at a shrine with a skeleton dressed in a wedding dress. As the anthropologist Piotr Grzegorz Michalik explains, that is the image that the popular Mexican media presented for years. But, he argues, in reality, the cult of Santa Muerte is very similar to other aspects of popular Catholicism, except that it is more open to a wide variety of influences.

Figures of "death" have been common in Catholic iconography since the 13th century, arising from the terrifying experience of medieval European plagues. The Spanish colonizers brought these images to the cultures of the lands they invaded. The first documented appearance of Santa Muerte as a venerated figure in Mexico occurred in a 1797 Inquisition report on the idolatrous practices of indigenous worshipers. Michalik writes that, at the time of publication of his article in 2011, the image of Santa Muerte could be found throughout Mexico. Since 2001, devotees have placed dozens of altars to the popular saint around Mexico City, as well as more throughout the country. Devotees of Santa Muerte pray with rosaries, make pilgrimages, and place offerings such as apples, cigars, and candles on their altars.








The cult of Santa Muerte is very similar to the cult of other saints in Mexican popular Catholicism. Often times, a saint will become popular and widely worshiped at a certain time and place. As with Santa Muerte, some of these are not formal canonized saints. Followers can seek magical or healing favors. As with other saints in popular Catholicism, devotees of Santa Muerte pray with rosaries, go on pilgrimages, and place offerings such as apples, cigars, and candles on their altars. The cult also uses magical rituals derived from indigenous practices, as well as elements from spiritism, Santeria, Western medicine, and New Age ideas about spiritual energy. Their healers can lift a curse, provide an herbal remedy, or offer assistance to a job seeker.

While faith in Santa Muerte can be found in the Mexican organized crime world, as well as among sex workers and LGBTQ communities, Michalik writes that it also has close connections with a commercial flavor of New Age spirituality. Devotees of Santa Muerte have their own glossy magazines, with free calendars and posters inside. The magazines feature exemplary prayers, miracle stories, and photographs of the ingredients needed for the rituals, available by mail. The faithful can buy a huge variety of figures of Santa Muerte, as well as products such as tarot cards with her image.

"What distinguishes Santa Muerte from other Mexican popular saints is for the most part her astonishing ease in absorbing countless elements of various visual codes, ritual patterns, and belief systems," Michalik writes. That flexibility may be one of the keys to Santa Muerte's success. Today, he has more than 10 million followers, according to R. Andrew Chestnut, including many north of the Mexican border.

Claiming the Day of the Dead

According to Andrew Chesnut, author of Devoted to Death: Santa Muerte, the Skeleton Saint, this is the fastest growing religion in the Americas, with an estimated 10 to 12 million followers worldwide.

Chesnut says that more and more devotees have started incorporating Santa Muerte into Day of the Dead celebrations in the past five years. Although many Mexicans see no connection between the two, both are believed to have come from Mictecacihuatl, a Mexica goddess who presided over a death festival every August.

After conquering Mexico in the 16th century, the Spanish encouraged locals to honor the deceased on All Saints Day, leading to the rise of the Day of the Dead as a fusion of Catholic and indigenous beliefs.

Chesnut says that devotees have begun to recognize Santa Muerte as the reincarnation of Mictecacihuatl and claim the Day of the Dead as their unofficial holiday, sparking what he says is "great panic" within the Catholic Church.

The Vatican has repeatedly denounced Santa Muerte in the run-up to the Day of the Dead in recent years, while the United States' Catholic bishops joined in the condemnation for the first time this year. In honor of what he calls Santa Muerte's "special day", Mr. Santana is planning a Day of the Dead celebration with live norteño music and dance. Attendees will bring offerings such as tequila, beer, cigarettes, traditional snacks, and flowers for Santa Muerte and deceased friends and family.


Santa Muerte: Saint of the dispossessed, enemy of the Church and the State


La Santa Muerte has crossed the U.S.-Mexico border for more than a decade, accompanying her devotees on their arduous journeys north. Also known as La Flaquita (The skinny girl), La Niña Blanca (The white girl), La Niña Negra (The black girl), Lady of the Shadows (The lady of the shadows), La Huesuda (The bone lady), La Niña Bonita (La Niña Bonita), La Madrina (La Madrina), and more reverently, La Santísima Muerte (La Santísima Muerte), is a saint loved by dispossessed peoples. I first met Santa Muerte in 2002 during fieldwork with undocumented immigrant transgender sex workers from Guadalajara, Mexico, who lived in San Francisco. [1] La Santa Muerte featured prominently on house altars in her single-occupancy hotel rooms. I had not met the saint before and was struck by her obvious importance in their lives. Thus began more than a decade by following Santa Muerte to Mexico, California, the US-Mexico border, and even to small towns in northern Wisconsin. In the early years of my research, few people in Mexico spoke to me about it, and few in the United States knew about it; she was clandestine or unknown. Now, Bony Lady is "out" and very visible. Since the early 2000s, the cult has grown dramatically in Mexico and the United States, especially among migrants. I came to understand his popularity among migrants and LGBTQ communities in Mexico; is associated with people who live precarious lives and / or are engaged in dangerous businesses. What surprised me, however, was that government entities in both the United States and Mexico shared my interest in Bony Lady. The Anti-Drug Agency, the Department of Defense, the Department of National Security, the Mexican government and the Mexican army are actively opposed to the cult of Santa Muerte. A law enforcement newsletter from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) states: “Santa Muerte information training can be so stressful for some law enforcement and public safety officers that they can become physically ill and pass out. This has happened more than once. Programs and writings related to wellness and spirituality can provide 'spiritual armor' ”(Bunker 2013).













The Roman Catholic Church also fears the skinny saint. The Church in Mexico and the Vatican prohibit their worship. Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, director of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Culture, declared: “It is not religion just because it disguises itself as religion; it is a blasphemy against religion ”(quoted in Guillermoprieto 2013, nd). The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Mexico City affirms that Santa Muerte is in "direct opposition to the teachings of the Church and to proper worship" (O'Connell 2009, nd). Both church and state actively oppose an unofficial saint worshiped by millions in Mexico and the United States.

La Santa Muerte perfectly embodies opposition to contemporary American responses to undocumented migrants, as well as the historical (and contemporary) exclusion of LGBTQ migrants from church and status. This essay explores America's obsession with the southern border as a means of keeping the "body" of the state pure; the role that the Roman Catholic Church plays in caring for the bodies of undocumented immigrants; the legal and social limbo that unauthorized persons face in the United States when they are no longer physically outside the border, but on the “outside of the inside” (Kuntsman 2009); and how borders and immigration policies control and reproduce gender and sexuality. The extensive discussion of boundaries, whether between nation states, genders, or legal states, provides the context for understanding the growing popularity of Santa Muerte. Finally, the essay returns to the central question of why both the church and the state oppose and feel threatened by Santa Muerte. The subversive Santa Muerte, favored by undocumented migrants, including LGBTQ migrants, provides comfort and protection against church and state, while reflecting their liminal and precarious lives.



The border between the United States and Mexico is the most militarized border area in the world between two friendly countries, which makes it "one of the most contradictory geopolitical lines in the world" (Cantú 2009, 59). In 2013, Senator John McCain proudly proclaimed: "We will be the most militarized border since the fall of the Berlin Wall" (quoted in Johnson 2013, nd). The border region resembles a low-intensity conflict war zone. There are military-style checkpoints on the roads north of the border, and warrantless searches are allowed within 100 miles. Local citizen residents are subject to multiple stops each day.

The dangerous crossing for migrants, moreover, does not end when they cross the line that separates the two nations, but in fact extends far north of the border itself. Between 1994 and 2012, 6,000 bodies were recovered along this treacherous terrain. These numbers do not include those whose bodies have never been found, thus greatly underestimating the actual number of migrants who have died in attempted unauthorized crossings. The border thus offers a striking example of the “everyday worlds of death” described by Queer Necropolitics essays, in which the “distinction between war and peace dissolves in the face of the banality of death in the abandoned zones that habitually accompany contemporary democracy. regimes ”(Haritaworn, Kuntsman and Posocco 2014, 2).

The emphasis on borders is surprising given the growing global connection and the weakening of the neoliberal state. According to Wendy Brown (2014), borders are performative; "They function theatrically, projecting a power and efficacy that they neither exercise nor can exercise" (25). In an age of erosion of the sovereignty of the nation-state, walls provide a stark image of power; they may project strength, but signal weakness. Hastings Donnan and Thomas Wilson write about the "body politics" of borders: "The relationship between state borders and the human body is considered in terms of a biological metaphor: the body embodies a state system of spatial control, or acts as a outer skin protecting a national social order ”(cited in Van Schendel 2005, 316). For their own protection, national agencies drive out foreign intrusions. Undocumented immigrants are sometimes represented using metaphors of diseases, parasites and pests that threaten , "Weaken and even kill the nation" (Chávez 2013, 117) Donald Trump claims he will build a wall along our southern border to protect us from "criminals, drug traffickers and rapists" and "border-crossing infectious diseases "(quoted in Zerbib 2015, nd).

Death is the work of women: Santa Muerte, a popular saint and her female followers

Kate kingsbury


La Santa Muerte is a new religious movement that originated in Mexico. It focuses on devotion to death. It has been the subject of criticism from the Catholic Church, the Mexican State and the media throughout the American continent. In misrepresentations that are often racist and sexist, previous institutions have portrayed Santa Muerte as a 'narco-saint', that is, a saint worshiped by drug traffickers, and the religion described as one that only violent and barbaric men follow. . It counteracts this misrepresentation which suggests that the devotion to death is a woman's work. I detail how women who have been at the fulcrum of the expansion of the movement have long appealed to Santa Muerte. I describe how the knowledge of Santa Muerte continues to be germinated by women who, through gynocentric thanatological praxis, empower themselves and create spaces to confront the violence, precariousness and poverty that threatens postcolony Mexico.



1.In 1910, José Guadalupe Posada, a Mexican illustrator, drew La Catrina. The satirical cartoon was created to poke fun at the Mexican upper classes of the early 20th century, during the era of Porfirio Díaz, whose lavish European lifestyles were said to be at the expense of the lower classes. La Catrina is typically depicted as a skeletal lady dressed in high fashion in a French-style floppy hat. 2. La Llorona is a female spirit at the center of a Mexican legend. The story is of a woman who, not loved by her husband, drowned with her two children in a river. He was denied entry to heaven until he found the souls of his children. Her spirit is said to stalk the waterways crying as she searches for her children, and it is said that she goes after boys and homeless men. In 2017, her son was shot and killed and, in 2018, Vargas died of natural causes. Enriqueta's daughter has taken her mantle. 5. See the article Eighteen seconds. Every 18 seconds a woman is raped in Mexico in 'mujeres en red, el feminista newspaper' see also the information center at /


Livia Gershon October 5, 2020 html

Correspondence to Kate Kingsbury, Anthropology Department, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada.

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