Texas Town Concerned By Santa Muerte Statue’s Mysterious Appearance In Cemetery

I wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of death spell that is this statue’s likely purpose. The San Benito News reports:

The identity of the owner of an oddly-placed statue of the Santisima Muerte in the middle of the San Benito Municipal Cemetery has become somewhat of a mystery. On Thursday, two local women expressed concern with the statue and called its presence “disrespectful” to the departed. City Manager Manuel Lara agreed that it should be removed if no one claims it.

The statue depicts Death atop a crushed pile of skulls, wielding a bronze globe in its left hand and a scythe in its right. It’s also accompanied by a bronze owl perched near the base and a tag tied to the scythe that displays a crowned Winged Death dangling a heart from a string.

Dr. Antonio N. Zavaleta, a renowned expert on the occult at the University of Texas at Brownsville, believes the statue’s purpose is malicious. “It’s definitely being used in a work of witchcraft, probably a spell to harm or kill someone.” Zavaleta stated.

Zavaleta said the owl is also a clear indication of brujeria, or witchcraft. “It’s a búho, or lechuza – a classic symbol of the witch, and the owl is the witch that takes the form of a person in Mexican-American culture and literally flies to the place where the spell is to be cast, where the harm is to be done to the person. It’s part of a spell.”

“Someone, a man or woman, is doing witchcraft for pay,” Zavaleta said. “Somebody has paid the witch; they don’t do it for free and it (witchcraft) could easily go for a couple thousand dollars. So it definitely needs to be removed. The city should remove it.”

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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Eric-Reber/707592313 Eric Reber

    Zavaleta sounds decidedly Christian.

  • David Metcalfe

    Some thoughts (also posted to Doubtful News) – It should be noted that Dr. Antonio N. Zavaleta is not
    a very credible source, and this article contains a number of dubious insinuations.

    First and foremost, I noticed that in none of the pictures are there any devotional offerings. It seems the only thing that has been added to the statue is that taped picture, which is vague. The use of the black Santa Muerte statue can have a number of different associations, including protection, curse breaking, etc.

    A true forensic investigation of this would need more material components to actually tell what the spell was intended for. His estimate of Santa Muerte having been around for only 30 years is also inaccurate, as the tradition goes back to Franciscan missionary plays, at least, and probably has roots in older traditions.

    The owl he gets all hyped about is a standard iconic aspect on Santa Muerte statues, and would more likely be associated with wisdom. Although it does serve the dual purpose of linking to the idea that Brujo’s (witches) travel in the form of night birds such as owls in Mexican folklore. However like all ritual symbolism, it has multiple meanings depending on who is enacting the ritual/interacting with the ritual object, and what they assume to do with it.

    These types of stories are a problem, as the current development of Santa Muerte’s devotional cult is being in some ways defined by the media. To continue harping on the negative aspects has the potential to actually create, and enforce the negative aspects. Such as with the Satanic Panic situation, where innocuousness occult imagery is said to have deadly consequences until you actually do get unstable people reenacting “satanism” as it’s portrayed by the media.

    Dr. R. Andrew Chesnut’s recent work Devoted to Death: Santa Muerte, the Skeleton Saint, is one of the first detailed academic accounts of Santa Muerte in English, and is very nuanced in it’s appraisal of the devotional tradition.

    He will be presenting a lecture on February 3rd at the Observatory Room in Brooklyn, NY, and I’ll be co-moderating the Q/A with Salvador Olguin who studies Latin American death traditions:
    http://observatoryroom.org/2012/12/18/viva-la-muerte-the-mushrooming-cult-of-saint-death-lecture-booksigning-and-santa-muerte-welcome-party/

    And from the good Dr. Chesnut himself: The problem is that Zavaleta’s conjectures are presented as facts. He’s a career administrator, and university bureaucrats rarely have time for serious research. Some of the more serious errors: 1. Periodization — Santa Muerte can be traced back at least to the 1790s when she’s mentioned in the annals of the Spanish Inquisition in Mexico (New Spain) 2. Inconography — the owl, for example, has multiple meanings, which include, wisdom and omen for imminent death. And as David points out, her black cloak can signfify protection and/or harm depending on the particular case.

    • Melissa

      This article makes my head spin. Most people who worship Santa Muerte are not doing so to harm or hurt anyone. Her black aspect usually depicts protection. Just as all Muslim’s aren’t terrorists, not all Santa Muerte worshipers are evil witches trying to hurt people. People kill in the name of The Lord, in the name of Allah, and in the name of Santa Muerte. Crazy is Crazy, no matter the religious worship they prefer.
      -sorry, meant this as a general response to this topic, not a direct reply to you David.

  • http://just-john.com just john

    And regarding the witchcraft-for-money complaint: What, this cemetery buries people for free?

  • http://www.facebook.com/luis.enciso.714 Luis Enciso

    so… how do they know the person buried didnt worship the santa muerte…

    • Michael

      That’s the problem city officials must resolve before taking any action — whether the statue is associated with any grave. As of this comment, no one has claimed it even prior to the story’s publishing.

  • http://www.xenex.org/ xen

    Death has no place there! What do these people think this is, a cemetery?

  • “Big” Richard Johnson

    I’ll notify the Inquisition.

  • David Metcalfe

    The story has been updated to include Dr. Chesnut’s appraisal of the situation, which I noted in my previous reply: http://sbnewspaper.com/2013/01/22/author-shares-different-theory-about-santa-muerte-statue/

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