random notes--La Santa Muerte

Okay, so I research my short-stories too.

Don't judge me.

In order to embrace my characters and their thoughts, I like to take the story, characters, and culture seriously. I also tend to believe that there is a lot more to creating a culturally diverse character than just changing skin-color. When I'm not familiar with the cultural aspects that I want to portray, I dig into research.

With this particular story, I had no idea where to begin with sources, so I DM'd Sabrina Vourvoulias and asked if I could email her. She graciously answered my questions and based on my idea, she recommended several sources but also mentioned a saint called La Santa Muerte. She suggested that was where I might find the supernatural edge that I wanted for my story.

So I sharpened my Google-fu skills and dived right into the an Internet search where I ventured across a documentary directed and produced by Eva Aridjis. The price was right, so I ordered a copy.

La Santa Muerte is a realistic, compassionate look at a saint that the Church repudiates, but who has found a home in the hearts of many people who consider themselves devout Catholics. Aridjis chronicles the story of how La Santa Muerte came to be venerated as a saint, who worships her, and why. Then she goes on to talk with woman who owns a shrine to La Santa Muerte, in addition to several people who visit the shrine on a regular basis.

To understand the Church's opposition, Aridjis interviews one priest, who explains, quite eloquently I might add, how the Church arrives at this distinction. The essence of his view is that the Christ overcame death through his resurrection and offers eternal life to his followers. Jesus vanquished death, which is seen as the enemy; therefore, to make death a Saint is to repudiate the Christ. He is quite logical about the whole thing and presents his case as a gentle lecture.

However, followers of La Santa Muerte don't consider themselves Satanists by any stretch of the imagination. They see La Santa Muerte as possessing roots in the pre-Colombian goddess of death Mictecacihuatl, and in the mother goddess Coatlicue, and consider her a part of their heritage.

A lot of people in the U.S. associate La Santa Muerte with cults and human sacrifice, because a lot of people in the U.S. believe everything they see in the newspaper, which tends to sensationalize the more lurid aspects of anything foreign or unknown. The cult of La Santa Muerte is not given entirely to drugs or drug smugglers. People who live in poor neighbors with high crime often venerate her too and her popularity seems to be spreading.

While the Church has a tendency to condemn those on the fringe of society, La Santa Muerte accepts everyone--the downtrodden, homosexuals, the addicts--she makes no distinctions, because in the end, it is she who comes for us all.

I thought it was a fascinating look, not just into how one religion is absorbed into another, but how people cope with intolerable situations and find hope for themselves and their families.

If you're interested, here is the trailer: