People are still afraid in Mérida, capital city of southern Mexico state Yucatan, even as ‘santamuerteros’ preach love to the “Holy Death” with no need of giving any of their loved ones in exchange for her grace.
By Leandro Chacón
Pictures by Kattia Castañeda/Leandro Chacón
Translated by Carlos Luna
Originally written in Spanish.
Mérida, Yucatán.- Worshipping The Santa Muerte in Mérida is falsely related to people who worship Satan or witches, but that’s only a baseless accusation from so called “Niña Blanca” detractors, for santamuerteros define themselves as “love preachers” in a city where they’re still feared.
“We, the santamuerteros, are people who always preach love, all the love we give is returned back to us. Clearing away all those myths, all those things that satanize our worshipping, that’s what we have for a task”, says Lucely Cuevas, from Santa Muerte International Sanctuary in Mérida.
Santa Muerte’s worship demonization is based on myths and fears from people who believe that being devotee to “La Niña Blanca” means sacrificing the life of a child or a loved one in exchange, but that’s just a lie. “Everything that people believe is evil it’s entirely the opposite,» said Cuevas, who leads the yucatecan sanctuary.
Santamuerteros’ worship is clear, pure and loving in her sanctuary at least, says Lucely while sitting on an altar with three life-sized Santa Muerte sculptures. The mere presence of alcohol is forbidden in the same room as the prayings are being made, or in any of their festivities along the year, and they don’t get money from the devotees.
“People come here for their “santas”, pendants, to be consecrated. Devotees are given the comfort they need, but we don’t take a single penny”, says the woman who has led the Santa Muerte International Sanctuary for seven years in West Mérida.
Though her sanctuary is meant for The Santa Muerte’s worshipping, Lucely says many people dislike coming due to her restrictions against alcohol and flirting at the temple: “It is not a place to match”, said Lucely.
Lucely doesn’t care about people not liking her sanctuary. She prefers having only three devoted instead of 20 if these 20 are to discourage the other brothers who arrive looking for comfort and relief, or come looking for a faith they couldn’t find in other religions like predominant catholicism in Mérida.
As a matter of fact, Lucely said, it is faith, true love and true spirituality in picturing death that is the center of their belief. It is there where santamuerteros find encouragement, and some of them even believe to have seen “La Niña Blanca” performing miracles without their having to sacrifice lives.
Lucely Cuevas has been devoted to La Niña Blanca for 11 years, she said. It started due to the devotion of her late son, whose death pushed closer to Santa Muerte. She had tried to help herself heal from the loss with psychologists and self help books, but none of these worked.
“I don’t blame her (Holy Death) for the death of my son because I know that she came for him sent by God the Father”, says the woman, who also says that Santa Muerte is the most obedient angel, «because one can be very devout, but when your time has come, she will come and take you”.
People come to the Santa Muerte sanctuary in Mérida in order to grow as better human beings, fueled by their faith. Though that change is up to oneself, adds Lucely, as she shows Voces Libres a “Niña Blanca” tattoo on one of her arms.
Santa Muerte performs miracles in Mérida
“Coming (to the sanctuary) is worthless if you’re gonna be the same filthy person; if you arrive home to argue with family; if you, as a husband, beat your wife. Many people have changed due to their faith in Santa Muerte and it is then they realize that being devoted will not kill their relatives.”
Lucely is first in line for witnessing a change among santamuerteros. She says she got infected with COVID-19, but it was “La Niña Blanca” who performed a miracle for her to recover from the disease, which has killed over two thousand people in Yucatán since March 2020.
“Doctor told me I had just three days left to live, so I held tight to Santa Muerte and told her: ‘should you heal me, I’m going to Tultitlán (State of México) to meet you, to thank you’. Three days later, despite what the doctor said, my santa woke me up: I tested negative”, the santamuertera says.
Another santamuertera, Mercedes, tells she came to this sanctuary following her devoted son, and even affirms that it was Santa Muerte who opened the gates of her heart, where she found quietness and faith that has helped her to strengthen her soul in a short time.
“If you ask her in faith, and it is doable, she will fulfill”, says mercedes. She adds that ever since she started coming to the sanctuary her husband quitted drinking, a change she considers as a miracle made possible thanks to the faith she put on Santa Muerte.
Even with infamy surrounding Santa Muerte, Lucely is sure that it’s been her that made infertile couples able to have children, even though their doctors gave up hope. “I believe that one who has faith can get whatever they want, as much as they come with their heart on their hand”.
Esta nota fue pensada y elaborada por el equipo de Voces Libres. Se autoriza su reproducción siempre y cuando se cite claramente al autor.
Estudió Comunicación en la UNID Mérida. Inició como reportero en Por Esto! Trabajó en Milenio Novedades, Línea Recta y El Peninsular. Iba a fundar una banda de punk rock, pero no sabe tocar el bajo. Es hincha del Atlante y cofundador de Voces Libres.