MEXICO CITY—Followers of Mexico’s fast-growing Santa Muerte death cult, dressed in white and clutching statuettes of their beloved skeleton saint, marched across the capital yesterday to demand recognition of their faith.
Angered by the Roman Catholic Church’s disapproval of their ghoulish sect and a government bid to strip their main shrine of its license, housewives marched alongside petty criminals chanting: “Listen, government, the Saint is fighting.”
“We are being persecuted,” said Catholic Bishop David Romo, who has become the black sheep of Mexico’s Catholic Church for leading services to the bejeweled, scythe-wielding Santa Muerte, or Saint Death, in the rough Mexico City neighborhood of Tepito.
!(>santamuerte.jpg! Santa Muerte, a centuries-old pagan cult, which has sprung back up in recent years to claim about 2 million faithful in Mexico, the second-biggest Catholic country, has followers that range from elite politicians to kidnappers and gangsters.
Followers do not see a contradiction between their veneration of death and being Catholics. In Mexico, it is not uncommon for Catholic churches in indigenous villages to practice unorthodox rituals and venerate their own saints.
Worshippers, many of whom spring from Mexico City’s grimiest, most lawless suburbs, say their offerings of fruit, dollar bills, tequila and cigarettes bring them protection.