Stash House Goddess: Media Portrayals of Santa Muerte

10968377_705857439512416_7077266381285409263_n.jpgCertain media outlets, such as Breitbart continue the trend of inaccurate and fear mongering reporting on Santa Muerte (see: 37 Illegal Aliens Found in ‘Goddess of Death’ Shrine House).  As Dr. Andrew Chesnut points out in his Twitter post of this link, neither devotees nor scholars refer to Santa Muerte as a “goddess of death.”

This report also includes mention of the surreal San Benito Santa Muerte scare that was fostered by University of Texas at Brownsville  anthropologist, Dr. Antonio Zavaleta, referred to at the time as an “occult expert” who put his personal beliefs over any sense of scholarly objectivity and encouraged the local news media to provoke a  witchcraft panic over Santa Muerte statues that appeared in the town.

For a deeper look at the San Benito incident and an analysis of why it is so important for the media to get the story right when it comes to Santa Muerte see: Magic Works in Its Own Way – San Benito’s Santa Muerte statues in perspective

One of the things that Dr. Andrew Chesnut and I have observed again and again with media reports regarding Santa Muerte is that all too often journalists simply do not research or reflect on what they are writing. Or they simply recycle and reformat information in ways that do not reflect an accurate portrait of the situation without contacting the source. Devotion to Santa Muerte is now the fastest growing new religious movement in the Americas. In 2001 devotees numbered only in the thousands. Now, just 15 years later, we estimate some 10 to 12 million, mostly concentrated in Mexico, Central America and the U.S. The sheer magnitude of devotion to Saint Death demands that new outlets, especially on the U.S.- Mexican border, report on it with a sense of professional integrity.

Co-authored by David B. Metcalfe and Dr. Andrew Chesnut

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