Santa Muerte and Violence in Mexico

The Vatican has launched a campaign to eradicate the cult of “Santa Muerte” (Saint Death) from Mexican Catholicism.

Vatican officials have “condemned Saint Death as an ‘infernal’ and ‘blasphemous’ figure worshiped by Mexican narcos,” according to R. Andrew Chesnut, a professor of Religious Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University. “Over the past month, the President of the Pontifical Council for Culture, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, has denounced the mushrooming cult of the skeleton saint on four separate occasions.”


The cult of Santa Muerte raises intriguing questions about the role of religion in the atrocious violence of the drug wars in contemporary Mexico.

Chesnut argues that “theological concerns, religious competition, unprecedented Latin American influence at the Vatican, and media coverage have converged and laid the foundation for the Vatican’s condemnation of the cult of Santa Muerte as the poster child of Latin America’s ‘culture of death.'”

R. Andrew Chesnut’s article about Santa Muerte appears in the Huffington Post. He has also published a book entitled, Devoted to Death: Santa Muerte, the Skeleton Saint (2012).

Thanks to my colleague Kristin Huffine, a historian of Latin American history, for bringing this story to my attention.

NIU students in HIST 740 Religious Politics and Sectarian Violence will be interested in this story.

This entry was posted in Civil Conflict, History of Violence, Religious History, Religious Violence, War, Culture, and Society. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Santa Muerte and Violence in Mexico

  1. David says:

    Thanks for mentioning Dr. Chesnut’s Huffington Post piece!

    For those interested in continuing their investigation of Santa Muerte, Dr. Chesnut and I are working to develop as a resource for exploring the sanctification of death in American faith traditions. ,

    Warm regards,


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