(Featured photo courtesy of Mexico City-based journalist David Agren)
This is a developing news story and will be updated as new information comes in to SkeletonSaint.com.
As they were offering votive candles to the skeleton saint early morning June 7, 2016 at the famous Santa Muerte shrine founded by Enriqueta Romero Romero (affectionately known as Doña Queta), Raymundo (Rey) Romero (70 years-old) and Rafael Romero (65) were shot several times by two assailants on a motorcycle. Raymundo was Doña Queta’s long-time husband who ran the Saint Death paraphernalia shop next to the shrine, and Rafael is her younger brother who helps out at the mushrooming devotion’s most important site. Both men were rushed to a nearby hospital where Don Rey died from his wounds, and Rafael Romero is in stable condition.
(Update) In a small prayer service for family members and close friends on June 8, Doña Queta mourned her slain husband at her famed Tepito shrine. In the wake of this violence a number of Santa Muerte leaders, including Enriqueta Vargas of Santa Muerte Internacional and Martin George of Circulo Espiritual Nacional E Internacional de La Santa Muerte, have come forward to express their support and concern for Doña Queta and her family.
While police are reportedly investigating possible motives, several factors point to an assassination. First, Tepito is one of Mexico City’s most violent barrios, a notorious center of contraband goods, drug trafficking and gang warfare. Some taxi drivers over the years have even refused to drive me there fearing for their own safety. Second, everything about the shooting points to an execution-style hit. The classic Latin American cartel assassination, pioneered in Colombia in the 1980s, involves two young men, a driver and a shooter, on a fast motorcycle hunting down their victim(s) at close range and then speeding away, usually never to be caught. Both the timing and advanced ages of the victims also point to an assassination attempt. Street robberies don’t normally take place at 7:00 in the morning, and in Tepito and other crime-ridden Mexico City neighborhoods the victims are usually younger people who would be more likely to carry cash and valuables on their person.
At this point I’d rather not speculate on why Dona Queta’s family members might have been targeted or who might be behind it. However, this isn’t the first time that violence has visited a major Santa Muerte figure. Enriqueta Vargas, now the top Santa Muerte leader in Mexico and proprietress of Santa Muerte Internacional Temple in Tultitlan, on the outskirts of Mexico City, lost her son, Jonathan Legaria Vargas (aka Comandante Pantera) in a hail of some 200 bullets pumped into his Cadillac Escalade in June, 2008. Many Mexican Santa Muertistas live and work in neighborhoods that are plagued by violence. Among other things, they pray for a Holy Death (one of the English translations of Santa Muerte), avoiding the type of demise that Raymundo Romero suffered.
Devotees across the Americas are expressing their sadness and using the interconnectivity of digital media to highlight the unified support for the growth of Santa Muerte’s tradition as one that represents charity, peace and loving community.
Doña Queta and Dr. R. Andrew Chesnut at her famed Santa Muerte shrine in Tepito, summer 2009. Condolences to her for losing her gentle husband Rey Romero, who was the first to tell Dr. Chesnut about the devotional color scheme, which ended up being used as the organizational framework for “Devoted to Death.” R.I.P. Don Rey!