The adoration of death (Die anbetung des todes) by Andreas Robertz

Skeleton as a holy figure (dpa / picture-alliance / Susana Gonzales)

Click Here for the original German language article from Andreas Robertz on the Deutzlandfunk website. This repost is an edited version of the Google translation.

The piece is also available as a German language podcast – To listen Click Here.

Death has always played an unusually prominent role in the everyday life of Mexico. When Santa Muerte cult of Christianity and the worship of death mix.The cult takes place in Mexico more and more followers. One reason for this could be the escalating drug war in the country.

A parking lot in Tultitlan, a northern suburb of Mexico City. Here is one of the largest Santa Muerte shrines in Mexico. Located directly on an arterial road is the 22-meter-high black figure and spreads her arms out. On the site there are several shrines with some life-size figures of the “Bone Lady”, as it is called in the vernacular. The Santa Muerte figures look like a female Grim Reaper with scythe and long robe. People bring beer and tequila, cigarettes, cooking oil, apples and sweets as offerings dar.

This Sunday nearly 150 Believers have come to the parking lot, mostly young men and women with their children, pray and eat together. Enriqueta Vargas is the head of the community. It is affectionately known as “Madrina” godmother called. Santa Muerte has a very special meaning for them:

“Death is a reality for all people. We are born and we die. Many people stamp the Santa Muerte faith from as diabolic, because they are ignorant of it. This belief is thousands of years old, he is by our ancestors and it are plenty of supporters of the angel of death in Mexico. Returning to our roots. ”

One of these roots lies in the rich tradition of the Aztec cult of the dead, in which the faithful begged the goddess of death Mictlancihuatl with offerings to help in this world. When the Spanish conquerors Mexico in the early 16th Century subjugated, they brought with them the representation of the Grim Reaper. That death all treated equally, makes the cult today particularly attractive to those who feel pressured by the Catholic Church to the brink.

Andrew Chesnut is a professor of religious history at Virginia Commonwealth University. The promise to treat everyone equally, is one of the main reasons he sees for the rapidly growing popularity of Santa Muerte.

“She is the saint that does not discriminate. This is why Mexican society meets her with great approval, as the gap between rich and poor in Mexico as in all of Latin America is enormous. This incredible gap that exists here makes the way that levels the playing field make sense, the equality of Santa Muerte swinging scythe becomes very charming for all who see a lot of injustice in the society. ”

Another reason is that many felt in the increasingly dominated by drug war violence and society in Mexico without protection.

“An estimated 70,000 deaths have occurred in the last six or seven years of the drug war., The fact that many believers, particularly in Mexico, have seen so much death and dying, and they turn to Santa Muerte and ask her for a few grains in the hourglass add to life, is fascinating: you ask death to prolong their lives. ”

The Vatican, however, shows continued hostility to Santa Muerte’s cult. Thus, the president of the Pontifical Academy of Culture, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi condemned the cult with unusually sharp language during a visit to Mexico. He speaks of a “Satanic drug cult”. For the speaker of the Mexican Episcopal Conference Pablo Padrazzi the popularity of Santa Muerte has two main causes: the proximity of individual Mexican criminal organizations, and the lack of education.

“There has always been a worship of Santa Muerte, the latest emergence has existed since the 18th century, especially among some indigenous peoples that have not been evangelized thoroughly enough. These people mix Catholic beliefs with the Santa Muerte business because they can not tell the difference. They are not formed in the faith, which worries the Catholic Church. ”

The situation is different says religious historian Andrew Chesnut. He suspects behind the rejection of Rome is the fear that believers could be moving to Santa Muerte as an alternative to the Catholic Church:

“There is a growing religious pluralism in Mexico and throughout Latin America. And the fact that this supposedly heretical death saint has now been around 10 million followers of the Roman Catholic Church makes real worry, especially since they have many in the last 40-50 years has particularly members lost to the American Pentecostal churches. ”

Enriqueta Vargas, the patroness of the Santa Muerte shrine in Tultitlan, is smiling over the dispute. The Catholic Church has yet to realize that in Mexico religious freedom reigns, she says. In addition, there are just as many drug dealers with the tattooed image of the Virgin of Guadalupe as the Santa Muerte. The drug-related crime is a big problem for all of Mexico, and is not specific to Santa Muerte.

“There was a lot reported about priests who abuse children. This is not correct. There are bad priests and there are good priests. In God’s vineyard you can find anything. For Santa Muerte there is no one who claims something to be what he is not. How many people go to church, cross themselves, beat their chests and claim to be good? “

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