Some people become devotees on their own initiative, actively seeking out Santa Muerte upon the recommendation of friends or family members. Others receive an unexpected call or visit from the Skinny Lady (la Flaquita, one of her many nicknames) in which she offers to solve their problems. Such was my own path to the skeleton saint, a surprise visit in the spring of 2009. For several years I had been doing research on the Virgin of Guadalupe, Mexico’s patron saint. I had decided to study her as I was finishing my second book. As a specialist in the religions of Latin America, I wanted to tackle a monumental topic for my next book project. As empress of all the Americas and queen of Mexico, the mestiza Virgin towers over the region’s religious landscape. Of course fellow researchers and devotees had already written numerous books and articles on her, but I was sure there was still much to say about the world’s most important advocation of the Virgin Mary. But as the semesters passed, first at the University of Houston and then at Virginia Commonwealth University, my enthusiasm for the project waned. The passion that had driven my previous research and writing just wasn’t there, and I wasn’t sure why.
Mexico’s Folk Saint Santa Muerte, associated with healing, protection, and a path to the afterlife. (©Toni François)
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