Culture

The Vatican Has Deemed La Santa Muerte’s Following As A Cult But It Just Keeps Growing

La Santa Muerte, a religious deity symbolizing death, has built a cult following throughout Latin America. Often depicted as a hooded female skeleton, believers will leave offerings of money, tobacco, and alcohol to Santa Muerte statuettes, hoping to be granted favors in exchange for their gifts.

Andrew Chestnut, a professor of religious studies at Virginia Commonwealth University and expert on La Santa Muerte, claims that the spiritual figure originated in Europe and arrived in Mexico with Spanish conquistadors who brought Catholicism to the indigenous people of country.

The Vatican and the Catholic church have distanced themselves from the Saint of Holy Death, with some clergy members calling the saint blasphemous.

But that hasn’t stopped La Santa Muerte’s popularity from growing exponentially, with her most famous shrine standing in downtown Mexico City.

La Santa Muerte is a saint your parents probably wouldn’t tell you about.


La Santa Muerte has her own following separate from other religions. According to The Huffington Post, some devotees still actively practice other religions while simultaneously praying to the deity.

Most images of La Santa Muerte are of a skeleton wearing saint-like garments.


While the rate of practicing Catholics continues to decline, La Santa Muerte’s followers are actually growing.

“She has between 10 and 12 million devotees, and she’s only been public for 12 years,” Andrew Chesnut, the author of “Devoted To Death,” told Vice.

You can’t deny that this saint is a bit creepy, with her Grim Reaper-like appearance.


Part of the folklore surrounding La Santa Muerte is that she is the most efficient and fastest-responding saint, but that service comes at a price.

La Santa Muerte will answer your prayers, but only if you make her a promise. Failure to follow through on your end has serious repercussions, like the loss of a loved one.


After decades as a fringe saint, La Santa Muerte is experiencing a revival and has been launched into the mainstream consciousness of Mexicans, South Americans and Catholics the world over.


According to The National Catholic Review, the jump to the mainstream world has the Catholic church so startled that officials are grasping for ways to push La Santa Muerte back into obscurity.

The Catholic church is classifying the devotion to the saint as a Satanic cult.


Enriqueta Romero is heavily credited for bringing La Santa Muerte out of the shadows. According to OZY, Romero is a former homemaker who has become the leading crusader of La Santa Muerte. The first real altar to the saint appeared in front of her home in Mexico City’s Barrio Tepito, notorious for its crime and black market. Romero is joined by Enriqueta Vargas, known as the godmother of La Santa Muerte, as the other leader in the cult of La Santa Muerte.

Romero and Enriqueta Vargas are making sure that the saint is recognized throughout Mexico.

@AndrewChesnut1 / Twitter
CREDIT: @AndrewChesnut1 / Twitter

That’s right. Two women with the same name have taken a stance against the Catholic church and have helped build the mainstream idolization of the deathly saint. Vargas lives in Tultitlán and performs weddings and baptisms for followers of La Santa Muerte.

Despite a continued campaign against La Santa Muerte, the Catholic church seems to be losing the battle.


“Many people here have a devotion to her and still consider themselves good Catholics,” Chesnut told The Catholic National Review. “And that is a real challenge for the church.”

Romero is not concerned over the continued pressure by the Catholic church to hide La Santa Muerte.

@AndrewChesnut1 / Twitter
CREDIT: @AndrewChesnut1 / Twitter

“They can just go ahead and do that,” Romero told National Geographic. “But have you seen how empty their churches are?”


READ: 17 Selena Tattoos That Have Our Hearts Going Bidi Bidi Bom Bom

Share this story with all of your friends by tapping that little share button below!

Here’s What You Need To Know About The Organization Spreading The Bible Via Hotel Rooms Around The World

Things That Matter

Here’s What You Need To Know About The Organization Spreading The Bible Via Hotel Rooms Around The World

J. Mark Bertrand / Flickr

There are some things that are just so normal, we never question how it came to be normalized. One day, historians will ponder this in regards to immigrant detention camps in America, but I digress. Once upon a time, the dusty drawer in your hotel room’s nightstand laid bare. That trusty Holy Bible was nowhere to be found, and likely, people weren’t looking for it.

So in a capitalist economy like the U.S.’s where supply and demand reign as the key influencers in the world around us, how did every hotel in America, and, subsequently, the world, come to guard a Bible? We highly doubt that reading the Bible on your vacation is anywhere nearly as commonplace as the actual Bibles. Here’s what we found out.

It all started in the fall of 1898 when two traveling salesmen met in a Wisconsin hotel room…

By Jonathunder – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

John H. Nicholson of Janesville, Wisconsin and Samuel E. Hill of Beloit, Wisconsin found themselves as strangers in a crowded Central Hotel in Boscobel, Wisconsin. The two ended up being forced to share a room. The two shared pleasantries and soon realized they were both devout Evangelical Christians. They joked about creating an association of traveling Christian businessmen.

The following May, they met again at Beaver Dam, Wisconsin to firm up their idea: create a men’s group for traveling Christian salesmen.

“A Lasting Vision.” Digital Image. Gideons. 10 September 2019.

That July, Nicholson and Hill brought a third member, William J. Knights, to a YMCA in Janesville. There, they hoped to recruit more members, but nobody else would join them. Their first meeting was just the three of them, during which they divvied up roles. Hill would be the President, Knights the Vice President, and Nicholson the Treasurer and Secretary. 

They prayed together on a name and Knights heard God’s answer: “We shall be called Gideons.”

Untitled. Digital Image. Gideons. 10 September 2019.

The Book of Judges shares the story of a man named Gideon who was recruited by God to lead his small army of 300 men against an enormous army. Their faith led them to gain victory over the much larger army. Their membership grew over the years, mainly consisting of traveling Christian businessmen. 

In 1908, they started leaving the first free Bibles in hotel rooms of the Superior Hotel in Superior, Montana. Today, the organization has grown to 200 countries, territories, and possessions and is known as Gideons International. Its website maintains that the foundation is based on a perceived need that “people today need someone to come alongside them in finding their way to true salvation that is available only through the grace of God.”

Still, only men are allowed to hand out Bibles. Women can only serve as auxiliaries to the men, as their wives.

“A Unique Focus” Digital Image. Gideons. 10 September 2019.

The organization boasts more than 269,500 Gideons and distribution of over 2 billion Bibles around the world. Gideons International describes themselves as “an Association of Christian business and professional men and their wives dedicated to telling people about Jesus through associating together for service, sharing personal testimony, and by providing Bibles and New Testaments.” The organization acknowledges that they’re best known for leaving Bibles in hotels, but want you to know that they also “place and distribute Scriptures in strategic locations so they are available to those who want them, as well as to those who may not know they need them.” 

To elaborate, they also distribute Bibles to “hotels, motels, hospitals, convalescent homes, medical offices, domestic violence shelters, prisons, and jails.” Also, members of The Gideons will personally hand out a free Bible to “police, fire, and medical personnel; prisoners; military personnel; students in the fifth grade and above.”

This is where it gets even more cringy.

“A Worldwide Impact.” Digital Image. Gideons. 10 September 2019.

Their website is littered with images of Black children in presumably African nations holding up free Bibles. The Gideons were founded by a group of white men and has evolved into a group of men “and their wives” proselytizing to young children of color. The presumption that their culture’s spirituality trumps another’s is spiritual colonization of the 21st century. In fact, the ACLU has gotten involved in a case against Gideons International for going into public schools and proselytizing to children in the 5th grade and above. 

But, hey, we’re glad our abuelas are comforted by the free spiritual literature found in their hotel rooms.

Credit: Public Domain

Next time they thank God for the Bible in their hotel room drawer, you can remind her that the man who placed the Bible there, wouldn’t allow her to hand the same treasured book to someone else.

READ: 10 Folk Religions You Didn’t Know Existed In Latin America And The Caribbean

Just A Reminder That It’s Super Strange To Take Pictures With A Dying Man On The Cross

Culture

Just A Reminder That It’s Super Strange To Take Pictures With A Dying Man On The Cross

Like many aspects of Latino culture, we have a complicated relationship with Catholicism. While many of us grew up in the church and take solace in the ritual and community that the church provides, there are also some other aspects of the religion that are harder to deal with. For example, many Catholics express their love for Jesus in some…unusual ways. Anyone who grew up in the church knows that Catholics can be prone to depicting the death of Jesus on the cross in–some would say–graphic ways. Growing up, many Latinos don’t think twice about seeing explicit pictures of Jesus dying at their local parish.

But after Latinos grow up and are exposed to other lifestyles and religions, we develop a different perspective on Catholic art. Outside of our Catholic/Latinx bubble, we begin to see why a lot of people view Catholic art as morbid. And honestly, sometimes we can’t blame them. So, with both Dia de Muertos and Halloween quickly approaching, we thought this was the perfect opportunity to deep-dive into the sometimes weird world of Catholic art. Take a look below and see if any of these spark any memories!

1. The Towering Shadow of Jesus

@bishi_music/Instagram

Whoever thought this giant Jesus shadow was inspiring probably has a different idea of what brings people comfort than what your average person does. To outsiders, it may look intimidating, to say the least. 

2. The Floor Made of Bones

@danmstephenson/Twitter

Yes, Catholics have an unfortunate history of plastering their buildings with bones of their dead patrons. It was very trendy back in the day. We can’t say we want this one to come back in style.

3. Skeletons Everywhere!

@fakingitfab/Instagram

When non-Latinx people think of skeletons, they generally think of spooky stuff like Halloween. But many Latino Catholics have seen a skeleton or two pop up in their own cathedral’s decor (that still doesn’t mean it’s not a little spooky).

4. Morbid Public Rituals

@hildahoy/Twitter

You know an event is sufficiently Catholic when there is a life-size rendering of Jesus on the cross being carried by a group of people. When you’re experiencing stuff like this, you don’t even question it. 

5. Unfortunate Artistic Interpretations of Jesus

@jupit3rrr/Instagram

Look, no one really knows what Jesus looked like. We, however, hope Jesus didn’t look like many of the old and dilapidated statues that we have seen of him in certain cathedrals. It may have looked great back in the day, but some of these need some refurbishing.

6. Tone-Deaf Baked Goods

@hotoynoodle/Twitter

A quick internet search will turn up some unfortunate Catholic-themed baked goods that look like they were made by some clueless but well-intentioned abuelas. If you think these hands-of-Jesus cookies are bad, you should see the “blood of the lamb” cake we stumbled across on Pinterest. 

7. Uncanny Pope Memorabilia

@jscates/Twitter

Naturally, the Pope is someone to be venerated in the Catholic religion, but odd-looking artwork depicting His Holiness is…well, odd. Especially when it’s a dinner table’s centerpiece. 

8. This disproportionate statue of Jesus

@julie_van_winkle/Instagram

Again, it’s obvious that the artist had the best of intentions, but unfortunately, the execution left a bit to be desired. Odd artwork like this is par for the course in many smaller parishes.

9. Graphic Depictions of Saints Being Martyred

@julie_van_winkle/ Instagram

It’s art like this that we remember being particularly afraid of as children. Blood coming out of saints was hard to look at and may have kept us up at night once or twice.

10. Embalmed Bodies of Saints

@ktcoulter/Instagram

Most other religions don’t display their heroes of yore out in the open for everyone to see. Again, this is what makes being a Catholic a sort of secret society–it doesn’t feel unusual when you’re a part of it!

11. This altar dedicated to the preserved head of St. Catherine

@LectorGirl85/Twitter

Really, there are countless sites dedicated to displaying the bodies (or body parts) of Saints who are no longer with us. Like this altar that’s dedicated to displaying the mummified head of St. Catherine. 

12. Yes, it’s as creepy as it sounds:

@VivantBlondie97/Twitter

We can understand how outsiders would give this practice a bit of a side-eye. But they just don’t understand, okay?

13. This Glow-In-The-Dark Crucifix

@revinthenorth/Twitter

This one is equal parts funny and spooky. Who thought it would be a good idea to display this in a church? 

14. To sum up with this astute observation from a priest with a sense of humor:

@thehappypriest/Twitter

Truer words have never been spoken. Sure, Catholic art can be morbid, but for many Latinx people, being Catholic is a substantial and important part of their identity.