Santa Muerte--literally "Holy Death" or "Saint Death"--is the sacred figure of death personified as a woman. She is venerated by an ever growing number of people in Mexico and beyond, and is especially popular with disenfranchised members of society such as criminals, prostitutes, transvestites, homosexuals, prisoners, the very poor, and other people for whom conventional Catholicism has not provided a better or a safer life. The phenomenon is thought to have its roots in a syncretism of the beliefs of the native Latin Americans and the colonizing Spanish Catholics.
We at Morbid Anatomy have long been fascinated by the phenomenon of Santa Muerte (on which more here) and, whilst in Mexico last week for the Morbid Anatomy Day of the Dead field trip, we had the very good fortune--thanks to our good friend Dr. Andrew Chesnut--to visit to the epic Santa Muerte shrine in Tultitlan, Mexico. Founded in 2007 by Jonathan Legaria Vargas (aka “Comandante Pantera"), the shrine--marked by a 75 foot tall figure of "The Skinny Lady"--consists of a series of small pavilions devoted to Santa Muertes wearing different colored gowns, and thus bearing different powers; Red, for example, is love; Gold is money; and black is protection). Each pavilion is stuffed with candles, drawings, flowers, stuffed animals, liquor, cigarettes, incense and other offerings; one pavilion is even devoted to healing broken Santa Muertes!
In 2008,“Comandante Pantera" was killed by gunfire. Since then, the shrine has been lovingly run by his mother, Enriqueta Vargas. In a very touching way, this shrine to Saint Death also seems to act as a memorial for her lost son.
Above are a few photographs of the shrine. You can see a full photoset by clicking here.
Thanks so much to the lovely Señora Vargas the rest of her crew, who were incredibly gracious and welcoming to us all. We also invite you to stop by The Morbid Anatomy Library to see some of the artifacts we acquired in the shrine's most excellent giftshop. To learn more the history of the shrine and the Santa Muerte phenomenon in general, check out the Most Holy Death website by clicking here. You can learn more about Enriqueta Vargas and her shrine by clicking here.