Mexicans' cultural fondness for the dark side is well known. But many Americans will be surprised to learn that there is a widely practiced religion of sorts which worships a robe-wearing skeletal figure, Santa Muerte (aka Saint Death), which looks like a female Grim Reaper and is incidentally a big favorite of the narco-crowd.
Santa Muerte is characterized as being less, ahem, judgmental than the traditional saints found in mainstream churches. The cult therefore attracts a definite criminal element. In fact, several cartel torture rooms discovered after the fact contained altars to the death saint. You have to wonder whether the votive candles were lit before, during or after.
There was bit of upset a few weeks back when Mexican authorities took a backhoe to more than 30 Saint Death shrines constructed around the border towns of Nuevo Laredo and Tijuana. The police, government and Catholic Church may look askance at the counter-culture religion, but dozens of worshippers in Mexico City protested the destruction and demanded dignity.
"We just want people to respect our faith like we respect other religions", said Pablo, a 28-year-old, at the protest who says he once avoided a jail sentence by praying to Saint Death. [Mexico's 'Saint Death' cult says is drug war victim, Reuters, April 10, 2009]
The authorities were understandably cautious about religious statues springing up being associated with the drug cartels and organized crime. A spokesman for the Catholic Church said that it was "no secret that this religious organization is ... not only superstitious, but diabolical".
And perhaps the death saint figure is indeed something of a syncretistic throwback to Mexicans' much missed Aztec days of yore where thousands of enemies might be sacrificed in a brief period, and the obsession with death was a central aspect of the religion.
Today, no Mexican amnesty demonstration in America is complete without a phalanx of Aztec dancers, announcing their hostile intent through cultural symbolism.
A self-identified archbishop of Santa Muerte at the recent Mexico rally, David Romo, reportedly claimed the death saint had up to five million followers. That number sounds high at first hearing, but Mexico has a lot of people who dabble at least part time in the religious dark side. Some may hedge their spiritual bets by lighting a nice candle and other expressions of devotion for Jesus Malverde, a crime figure from the mists of Mexican folklore, now a famous narco-saint. Similarly, the Day of the Dead is a festive occasion in Mexico, populated with well dressed skeletons not unlike the Death Saint.
These days, Jesus Malverde has gone mainstream and was even written up in the New York Times:
"Malverde is widely considered the patron saint of drug dealers, say law enforcement officials and experts on Mexican culture. A shrine has been erected atop his grave in the remote city of Culiacán in the Mexican state of Sinaloa, which has long been associated with opium and marijuana trafficking.
" 'The drug guys go to the shrine and ask for assistance and come back in big cars and with stacks of money to give thanks,' said James H. Creechan, a Canadian sociologist and adjunct professor at the Autonomous University of Sinaloa in Culiacán." [Mexican Robin Hood Figure Gains a Kind of Notoriety in U.S., by Kate Murphy, Feb 8, 2008.]
There's also a Jesus Malverde beer, a favorite of the bad guys and wanna-bes. In Mexico's version of the modern branding culture, narco types like to identify themselves as cool criminals by swilling Malverde cervesa, being engraved with tough-guy tattoos and owning Malverde products.
Such displays are useful to savvy police, it should be noted.
Interestingly, Jesus Malverde commands the same religiosity among some as any Rome-approved saint.
"Ruperto Juan Palacios Cabrera, leader of the group "Los Filosos del Norte", explains his beliefs:
"'I really suffered a lot, I struggled with a broken-down accordion. I used to say to myself ´I hope I have some luck one day´. When I found out about Malverde I put my trust in him and now I have four accordions. Now I am very happy and I tell everybody they have to worship Malverde.' "[The "patron saint" of narcos, BBC, Nov 8, 2008]
Another marker of Mexican culture's dedication to the dark side, particularly crime, is the music known as narco-corrido, which celebrates the violent lifestyle of drug smuggling. The lyrics glorify topics like gun battles with police and smuggling people and substances across the border. Having a big shiny arsenal and a pile of dope is the dream of many a young fellow.
However, drug ditties which extol one gang may well enrage another, which can lower life expectancy for even well known cocaine crooners. Valentin Elizalde, a commercially successful singer, was chased and gunned down after a 2006 Reynosa concert. Singer Zaydee Pena was shot dead in 2007 as she lay in a Matamoros hospital bed.
Time magazine reported in December 2007 that at least 13 musicians had been killed since June of 2006. [Who Is Killing Mexico's Musicians?, by Ion Grillo, Dec. 24, 2007]
The musicians of these styles grew up in communities rife with drug traffickers, who often pay the entertainers to play at their parties and to write songs about them. The singers perform the drug ballads along with their love songs: the narco corridos have been among the biggest-selling records in the country.
But even with the severe drawbacks, the narco life continues to attract willing workers and troubadours, and Mexicans are dying to keep it going, as the mounting death toll from Calderon's drug war attests. At least one community—the aforementioned Culiacan, on Mexico's west coast, facing Baja—was not happy when its high-spending narco-economy was shut down by police.
Mexico loves its criminals to a degree found in few other places. We Americans have admired people like Jesse James, Al Capone, Butch and Sundance, and Bonnie and Clyde for their outlaw ways. However, while we may romanticize criminals in movies, we at least don't imagine them as saintly.
The Mexican people have created a culture that reveres crime and evil. Why should young males pursue education when they can have all their bad-boy fantasies met in spades? It's therefore not surprising that the average Mexican kid has quit school by age 14 for a more colorful lifestyle.
Unfortunately for us, many have el norte in mind for a future. According to the recently published Pew Hispanic Center's report, Mexican Immigrants in the United States 2008, a substantial chunk of Mexico has already come here. And the Mexodus show no sign of stopping. Around 11 percent of living Mexicans currently reside in the United States, a record 12.7 million.
That number is a 17-fold increase since 1970.
No wonder Mexifornia feels like cultural indigestion.
Bottom line: One of the world's worst possible immigrant groups (other than Muslims of course) is coming to America in record numbers and burdening us with their toxic culture of crime, sexism, bribery, pedophilia, slavery, child kidnapping, educational apathy, animal cruelty, superstition and general corruption.
Millions of Mexicans come to the United States for the money only. Many don't like us or our values at all. As a result, they resist the traditional assimilation that ordinary Americans still expect of immigrants.
Yet the elites insist upon keeping their cheap-labor firehose wide open—despite mass popular disapproval of the American people who want their laws and borders enforced.