Friday, June 10, 2011

Saint Death, the Knights Templar and Corporate Colonialism

by Sylvia Ji

First some background because what’s happening in Mexico isn’t a drug war which is what mainstream western media is calling it, it’s a civil war.  It would be generally bad for North America if we admitted we had a civil war on our hands but that’s what we have. We have to go all the way back to the early 1990’s (long, long ago in a faraway magical place) and NAFTA.  The North American Free Trade Agreement or what is now in 2011 the world’s largest trade bloc.  The Zapatista’s declared war on the Mexican state on January 1st, 1994, the day NAFTA came into force eliminating Article 27 of Mexico’s constitution.  If you’re not entirely clear on what a free trade agreement is, it’s basically when a collection of political leaders from different countries get together and make it a law that the private sector banking and commodities interests have more power than their respective country’s political leaders.  It is exactly as bad of an idea as it sounds like.

The immediate effects in Mexico were catastrophic; by permitting heavily-subsidized US corn and other agri-business products to compete with small Mexican farmers NAFTA almost instantaneously drove some 2 million Mexicans out of agriculture, and many of those that remain are living in desperate poverty. Wages along the Mexican border have actually been driven down by about 25% since NAFTA, reported a Carnegie Endowment study. An over-supply of workers, combined with the crushing of union organizing drives as government policy, has resulted in sweatshops along the border where wages typically run 60 cents to $1 an hour.  The city of Juarez on the Mexican-American border where American corporate manufacturing is the employment mainstay has become a warren of shanty towns and a battleground between the Cartels and the Mexican and American drug enforcement agencies. 

The one highly profitable undertaking left in Mexico was smuggling.  Smuggling drugs north out of South America into the U.S. and guns south out of the U.S. into South America.  The cartels became regional super-powers, controlling cities and vast rural areas.  In 2000 President Vincente Fox began a concerted effort to take control of the illicit trade over the US/Mexican border in Tamaulipas.  He failed, turns out that the millions of impoverished Mexicans had something of a bolstering effect on the Cartels.  Previous to 1994 the criminal underground in Mexico was subject to the archetypal ‘dirty cop’, an ideologue deeply entrenched throughout secular culture.  The ‘dirty cop’ presupposes that the civil authority given the police is greater than that of the criminal class and so therefore the persistence of crime is a testimony to the moral decay of those in positions authority.  So in civilian terms what really happened back in 2000 was that the cartels took the international drug trade away from the military.  The civil authority was no longer greater than that of the Cartels.

So think about that and Google some stuff or whatever.  The western media has also focused its attention on the cult figure of Santa Muerta or Saint Death.  The sensational possibilities of a real life death cult in the secular north are just to delectable to pass on.  Or at least, it is a lot easier to pitch than the Christian zealots of the Knights Templar.  That’s right; the Cartel which controls Michoacán is the Knights Templar who have risen to dominance out of the wreckage of La Familia.  The Knights Templar were most likely the strong arm of La Familia, who collectively revered El Mas Loco as their spiritual leader.  El Mas Loco constructed an evangelical Christian belief system out of the writings of John Eldredge and the tenets of Swedenborgianism. 

The Templar Knights, like their namesakes before them are responsible for many of the most gruesome spectacles the civil war has produced thus far; hanging the bodies of rivals from bridges, tossing the decapitated heads of police enforcers onto nightclub dance-floors and in one instance sewing the face of a corrupt politician onto a soccer-ball. 

Los Zeta’s, La Familia’s great rival for control of the Mexican underground kills in a more traditionally ritual manner.  The bodies of victims of Los Zeta’s are often marked with iconography associated with the gang and have the head, genitals and heart removed.  Governmental raids have also identified the use of nganga among Los Muertos, showing distinctive influences from Palo and Kimbanda.  Santa Muerta is most likely analogous to Centella of the Palo or if not there is a curious amount of synchronous eschatological overlap between the two.  The original 31 Zeta’s were Guatemalan para-military recruited by the Gulf Cartel as bodyguards in the late 80’s.

Santa Muerta is understood as the Good Death which came for the Son of God and spared mankind the sufferings of their sin.  To the animist that good death is in fact the merciful figure of the story who acts on behalf of the desperate.  A good death was also a Catholic foundation point, absolution at the moment of death was paramount so that the soul did not stand before God burdened with its lifetime of sins.  Prayers and offerings were then made to preserve the individual for the Good Death.  This is eschatologically sound Christianity; Jesus admonishes the faithful to pray for their salvation by right of his Good Death (most likely because God didn’t listen to him).  In this regard Good Death becomes a point of spiritual liberation and security for those beyond the social and Christian moral scope and so Santa Muerta is equated with criminals and prostitutes because she is shelter and salvation for the desperate and sinful.

Santa Muerta’s devotee’s in Mexico are at war, a real civil war which has arisen out of unimaginable poverty and desperation and not the laughable crusades of suburban cashiers to dress like Green Day fan club presidents.  The obvious logic of taking the vital organs and the powers of the soul of one’s enemy will obviously escape those who are so crippled by their Protestant morals that they cannot even take the life of their own dinner but it makes perfect sense to a soldier and anyone else without the luxury of double standards.  In fact, we are seeing the very same sorcerous warfare utilized by the Vodoun during the Haitian revolution in action.  I suppose it is easy for the effete N. American intellectual to pontificate regarding the violent sorceries of the Petro, Danto and Zombi in driving the Aristocracy from Haiti, lost as they are to history.  Not so easy when those same sorceries now drive chaos and death across the border into secular suburban America where most of you still live with your parents.

The 20 million illegal Mexican immigrants that have flooded into America in the last decade are socio-political refugees from a civil war started by American and Canadian corporate interests so that they could extend record profits into the new millennium through the vehicle of cheap labor, a civil war with an unofficial death toll approaching 50,000 and that’s a conservative estimate.  That is an omnipresent specter of death right there.  Regardless of whether the individual is a criminal, a prostitute or a fortune-teller it’s all death all the time for an enormous portion of the population.  Santa Muerta is traditionally given offerings which mark her as a figure of the oppressed classes, weed and tequila and blood. All attempts to gentrify this figure will fail miserably.  Death waits for us all, whether you nod off old and decrepit or meet your end with a drug dealer’s bullet your final sacrifice to Santa Muerta will be your life. Los Muertos make sacrifice to Santa Muerta for a Good Death, to die without fear with their face towards the sun.  There is no room for a goddess like that in the American suburbs and the Protestant ethics they have dressed up in pagan iconography.  Hecate, Astarte, Kali... this was how they were worshipped, with the fearless violence of Los Muertos. 

Many want the violence of Los Muertos and the Palo to be incidental, an unfortunate extension of poverty and not the nature of the spirit itself.  Many want this to be so because the dark magic’s of the western establishment, the covens and orders seem laughable and impotent in comparison to the warrior modalities of the Palo and Los Muertos.  When the criminal smugglers operating in the lawless west of Haiti out of the pirate port of Tortuga began the rebellion the scholars and western ceremonialists said all the same things about them as they currently are saying about Los Muertos.  It isn’t a ‘revolution’; it’s a bunch of barbarous heathens killing the righteous.  Well, the ‘barbarous heathens’ of Haiti kicked the asses of the western ceremonialists because they knew death and they knew magic and moral rationalizations don’t count for much in the face of thing like that.

In war one uses what weapons are at hand.  We Valentines got family in Mexico going back a couple of generations and on the ground in Mexico we worry about the police and the military not the cartels.  On the ground no one thinks the mass graves full of dead women on the American border were the work of the cartels, anyone who knows anything about Santa Muerta knows you don’t fuck with her women.  It isn’t that far from the civil disobedience and legal protests of farmers in Chiapas to the warrior cults of Los Muertos, it is exactly one generation of pandemic poverty and oppression beneath a corrupt government.  Which when you think about it, isn’t really that far at all.

If they murdered your women and buried them in a hole, what would you do?   


  1. Thank you for this post. This knowledge needs to be spread, though I fear most will one way or another plug their ears and minds. The rich and powerful and blinkered who condemn the cult of Santa Muerte and her devotees have never been poor. Have never had to choose between crime and starvation. Not all her devotees commit crimes, but criminals have spirits same as we righteous. Should they not have the Gods of their mutual choosings? Foolish question: they do.

    Also the USA's drug problem is not supply but demand: of course. Why must so many so well-fed and wretched have their drugs and pay big money to get them? And --- often not even for an adventure, not to seek reality and gnosis illicitly, but to escape into an blunted stupor more ignoble by far than Death? Solve that, dear old failed U. S. of A.

    Sometimes, like the old bluesmen singing of Samson, I'd just prefer to see those in chains tear this whole building down. Maybe I'll have a beer or three and listen to a couple of old spirituals I have --- tinny, scratchy songs joyously celebrating the sinking of the Titanic.

    Lightnin Ball