The origins of Santa Muerte – a religion/cult that has been denounced as satanic by the Mexican Catholic Church – can be dated back hundreds of years. It was developed through a syncretism between indigenous Mesoamerican and Spanish Catholic beliefs and practices. Only in the last decade however has it become more predominant in Mexican society, where many commentators have noted its rise with the killing and violence associated with the war between rival drug cartels and the Mexican Government.
For the past three years I have visited Mexico several times and have researched, interviewed and documented the devotees, as well as recorded the shrines and altars they visit. I have made contact with many individuals who have built and manage the shrines, and who by default are now considered to be guardians and spiritual leaders of the faith. They have given me access and permission to photograph not only in their places of worship but also in their private homes and in prisons, where Santa Muerte has a very strong following amongst the Mexican penitentiary system.
I admit that along the way I encountered individuals who lived up to the Santa Muerte stereotype that the US and European media have created. But on the whole the hospitality, kindness and warmth I was shown contradicts all the negative perceptions I had read, seen and heard. I want to tell their side of the story and in part my own.