In a nation wracked by violence, Mexico’s faithful pay tribute to Santa Muerte. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) STORY: In a country wracked by drug violence and poverty, Santa Muerte, or "Saint Death" or "Holy Death" is appealing to many people in Mexico. At the beginning of each month, at a temple dedicated to Saint Death in the Mexico City neighborhood of Morelos, followers pray in front of a grim reaper figure behind a glass case. They leave offerings of tequila, rum, beer, cigarettes, cash, flowers and candy at altars adorned with rosaries and candles. This is one of the most popular shrines in the city and is located in a crime-ridden area. Enriqueta Romero, who has been a Saint Death believer for the past 57 years, set up the shrine after her son gave her a Saint Death figure, which is now honored by dozens of people daily, who also ask Romero for her blessing. The worship of a female skeletal grim reaper strays from the image of one of the world's most devout Roman Catholic countries. Unlike other home-grown Mexican tenets of faith that have mixed with Catholicism, the Vatican has taken a hard line against Santa Muerte. The Catholic Church frowns on Santa Muerte, whose origins may be traced back to Aztec and Mayan death-gods or to ancient European traditions, but many devotees call themselves Catholics. Nevertheless, Romero says Santa Muerte is not opposed to the worship of God, whether it be Catholic, Christian or evangelical, adding that she also considers herself a Catholic. She called for followers of Santa Muerte to not be stigmatized as Satanists or worshipers of evil. "They should not judge us, speak badly about us. We are not Satanists. We don't worship the devil. I am not a witch. I am not evil. But I do have a lot of faith. A lot of faith," Romero said. Victor Alejandro Paya, a sociology professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), specializing in social theory and criminology, said, "Saint Death comes to make sense of anguish. She comes to make sense of pain and comes to make sense of death and especially violence." Many of those attending the shrine say they have developed their faith in Santa Muerte after a difficult wish was fulfilled such as getting a relative out of jail or off drugs.