"Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing."

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Nuestra Señora de las Sombras

 "Dios me cuida y ella me guia" (God protects me and she guides me)

Death is not an emotion, it's an inevitable conclusion. The emotional aspect is a human element, for in death.. to our limited knowledge, nothing is felt. The tallyman tallies our sins and sends us down the appropriate path. The merchants of death stand in line with everyone else, awaiting judgement for their foul deeds.  Even stone cold killers believe themselves worthy of redemption in the face of God. 

Everyone, from the bosses down to the sicarios, wants the task accomplished successfully. To this end, they turn to the talisman with the most power to avert disaster.  Jesus Malverde was Sinaloa's version of Robin Hood, a common man transformed into a common criminal by circumstances. Malverde shared his plunder and when he met his fate at the hands of the police in 1909, his story entered into legend. Over the years he's been adopted by the narcos as their patron saint. However, the times they-are-a-changing, one consecrated charm no longer does the trick. The need for an all encompassing patron started to grow. One that would serve both traffickers and addicts, saints and sinners, the wealthy and the poor.

When death is omnipresent, why not turn to it for protection. Thus, Santa Muerte is the new religion ..the new flavor. The cult of Santa Muerte is a syncretism of Catholic and Mesoamerican beliefs mixed with Afro-Cuban rituals. Santa Muerte appears as a skeletal figure, clad in a long robe and carrying a scythe and a globe. (she may also hold an owl or an hourglass) In macabre motherly fashion, this matron looks after everyone without prejudice.

People with nothing to look forward to except death aren't concerned with doctrine. Thus, the declaration of the Catholic Church, that Santa Muerte is a cult with satanic overtones fell on deaf ears. Mexican authorities have linked devotees to prostitution, drugs, kidnappings and murder... but the same could also be said about Catholics ...in much greater number.

The cult of La Nina Santa has spread like wildfire. From the bodegas of New York City to the liquor stores of Chicago and the swap meets of Phoenix, there she is.  Across North America, Santa Muerte shadows Mexico's patron saint, La Virgen de Guadalupe. One represents rigid, unbending devotion, while the omniscience nature of the other forgives our human weaknesses.

The Lady of the Shadows is bestowed offerings of  money, flowers, brandy, rum and often a cigar is clenched between her teeth. People pray for protection, to win over lovers, winning lottery numbers, the death of an enemy, success in business or to move product across the border.  Along the roadsides of war torn Tamaulipas and Chihuahua, shrines to La Flaca are quickly destroyed by the Army. Can't have folks getting worked up over false prophets and shamans, they might lose faith in their government.

In times of darkness a ray of sunshine leads to a shining path, however, if death is your only hope, then you're at the end of your rope. Standing tiptoes on a stool with a noose around their neck has become second nature to most Mexicans. Instead of condeming the organic rise of Santa Muerte, the powers that be should offer alternatives ... fuck! who am I kidding? It's Mexico. My best advice for La Raza... stock up on cigars and rum, Santa Muerte seems to favor them.

The reaper's scythe grows dull from the harvest
this business of death... it affords him no rest
he reaps till they weep, yet they're not satisfied
pobre de ti... pobre de ti

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