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The Cult of Santa Muerte: Migration, Marginalization, and Medicalization

  • Eduardo González Velázquez
  • Eduardo García-Villada
  • Timothy D Knepper
Chapter
Part of the Comparative Philosophy of Religion book series (COPR, volume 2)

Abstract

The 2015–2017 programming cycle of The Comparison Project hosted two lectures on Santa Muerte: the first by Prof. Eduardo González Velázquez, a professor of history at Monterrey Tec National School of Social Sciences and Government (Guadalajara, Mexico), an international partner of Drake University; the second by Prof. Eduardo García-Villada, a professor of Spanish at Drake University. In this essay, we weave these two lectures into a composite picture of the role of the cult of Santa Muerte with regard to death and dying. Section one draws on Prof. García-Villada’s initial encounter of the cult and consequent exploration of its history and practices. Section two contains the majority of Prof. González’s lecture about how the cult serves migrants and other marginalized sectors of Central American society. Section three is an excerpt of Prof. García-Villada’s lecture on what the prayers to Santa Muerte reveal about her nature and the function of her cult vis-à-vis traditional power structures. Finally, section four contains the reflections of The Comparison Project’s director, Tim Knepper, about the relationship between the cult of Santa Muerte and the theme of the 2015–2017 programming cycle: medicalized dying. In a time when fear of death is a constant presence, the devotees of Santa Muerte have turned to her as a saint, if not a deity, who can protect and provide for them in a way that the state and church cannot, without regard for how marginalized or deviant they might be. In this sense, the cult of Santa Muerte serves an end not unlike that of bioethics: the attempt to control death.

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eduardo González Velázquez
    • 1
  • Eduardo García-Villada
    • 2
  • Timothy D Knepper
    • 2
  1. 1.Monterrey Tec National School of Social Sciences and GovernmentGuadalajaraMexico
  2. 2.Drake UniversityDes MoinesUSA

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