For breakfast we suceed in ordering a meal that doesn’t include tortillas or eggs or beans. Chicken and chips did very nicely. Hungrily digging in, we are sat on plastic chairs at a plastic table in a sparse room with fridges for drinks lining one side and a small sink at the end. The only decoration being some faded colour paper streamers hanging from the ceiling. Most likely left from Christmas, although which year I couldn’t say. And in the corner a well-kept shrine adorned with flowers and flickering candles. This was no Virgin Mary, but Santa Muerte. Angel of Death. A bit disturbing being watched eating by a skeleton in a technicolour dreamcoat, holding a globe and huge scythe.
Mexicans have long revered death. Since pre-Columbian times in fact. But the cult of Santa Muerte is a more recent phenomenon, becoming popular within the lower classes (and less honest ‘professions’) in the last few decades such that there are now over 2 million believers spreading as far as the USA. It is not unusual where cultures clash and mix that religions should merge and evolve too. It has happened in Cuba with Santeria, and West Africa with Vodun and here with Santa Muerte.
Santa Muerte is like many of the catholic saints. He offers worshippers favours in return for their faith and obedience. Santa Muerte is very powerful, with the ability to make a person fall in love with you, damage property or even harm or cause the death of someone. But only in the name of justice.
The colour of the saint’s robe depends on what is being requested. Red for love, gold for power and wealth, green for justice and unity, amber for health, black to convert negative power for good, blue for wisdom and knowledge, brown to invoke spirits from beyond and purple to open a new pathway.
The Santa Muerte watching us was in a multi-coloured robe, which is a kind of do-it-all one. Presumably for when the worshipper doesn’t really know what they want. I suppose if I were a follower, I would dress mine in blue and purple… to help me find new paths and learn, which is more or less what I’m trying to do when I travel.