In a culture, such as ours, that does everything it can to deny our inevitable mortality, when a folk Saint appears clothed in the visage of death it can cause a bit of a stir. Santa Muerte, for her devotees, is an all encompassing friend, a beneficient mother, giver of gifts that no other Saint would sanctify, and available to all who seek her favor. The Western media, however, only sees her as an archetypal image to promote fear mongering over the complex issues of immigration, drug trade and violence.
Last Friday I had the opportunity to speak with Dr. R. Andrew Chesnut, Endowed Chair in Catholicism at Virginia Commonwealth University*, whose recent book, Devoted to Death: Santa Muerte, the Skeleton Saint, is one of the only (if not THE only) in-depth resources on La Niña Blanca (The White Lady) available in English. The book is a fascinating look at one of the 21st centuries most nuanced devotional traditions, which Dr.… Read the rest