“Practically overnight, this has gone from a forgotten small town to a religious mecca where pilgrims travel hundreds of miles to seek answers to their prayers. Their fervor is freaking people out. While a similar shrine to a Catholic saint would likely be a source of pride, many residents are appalled at a 75-foot-tall statue of a skeleton shrouded in black, Santa Muerte (Saint Death). Although the Santa Muerte icon has existed for decades in working-class Mexican neighborhoods, never has it towered so ominously.
Town officials say they want to respect freedom of religion but are facing pressure from constituents who say their new neighbor is literally giving them nightmares. The town has ordered the statue demolished for zoning violations but has taken no further action. In a small chapel on the grounds, devotees place tequila, cigarettes and bowls of fruit at the feet of smaller Santa Muerte statues. Some burn special incense sticks that promise better health or a new job. Hundreds of worshipers come for Sunday prayers, many traveling long distances to this town about an hour north of Mexico City.
The temple’s leader, a young man with a goatee and piercing eyes who is known as Godfather Endoque, has warned that worshipers might respond violently if the temple is shut down. Endoque said he wants peaceful coexistence, adding that town officials should realize that many of their own citizens are closeted Santa Muerte devotees.”
(via The Chicago Tribune)