Mexico’s Roman Catholic church has taken a new target. Late last week church spokespeople called on Mexicans to stop following a cult that promotes the worship of death, which they call Saint Death. Mexico City Archdiocese spokesman Hugo Valdemar said the cult was “against Christianity and a chosen cult by organised crime.” His remarks came after a Santa Muerte bishop, David Romeo Guillen, was detained and charged with being the money man for a gang that specialised in kidnapping in Mexico City.
According to newspaper reports, Guillen admitted to being part of the kidnapping ring and offered police to collaborate with them and provide information on other kidnapping rings. Mexico has approximately 8,000 kidnappings a year, according to security consulting firm Multisistemas de Seguridad Industrial.
The Santa Muerte is a macabre sight that adorns altars across the country, complete with offerings. It is known to be followed by drug traffickers and criminals. The church has about 2m followers in Mexico, and an undetermined number of faithful in the United States, where immigrants have built about 15 churches dedicated to the cult.
The figure worshipped by its followers is a skeleton with a hooded robe. The colour of the robe may vary.
The first time Mexicans learnt about the figure was in 1998, when Daniel Arizmendi López, a well known kidnapper who was known as the “mochaorejas”, or the ear chopper, and police discovered an entire shrine to the Santa Muerte, where he prayed daily for protection.
There are people who think the cult goes back to the conquest, but some analysts say, the number of followers is mainly among people in prison, the young and drug traffickers.
Nevertheless, a group of followers has also conducted public demonstrations to protest the detention of Bishop Guillen. One follower, who said she had been a devout of the church for 25 years said the authorities should provide more evidence as to whether Guillen was really guilty.