Representations of Death in Mexico: La Santa Muerte

Malgorzata Oleszkiewicz-Peralba

Abstract


The Aztecs had their representation of the land of the dead—Mictlan--with their respective god and goddess, Mictlanetecuhtli and Mictecacíhuatl. The Spaniards, on the other hand, brought their own medieval imagery of death as a caped skeleton with a scythe. Nowadays in Mexico, some of the most widely known images are those associated with the Day of The Dead. Notwithstanding, a new representation, that of an unofficial saint called Santa Muerte, which started in mid-twentieth century as a private devotion among the marginal population of Mexico City, is spreading rapidly, both in geographical and sociological terms. It expanded to Central America and the United States, and it is practiced mainly among parts of the population that deal with transitions and danger. I examine representations of death focusing on this ambiguous figure that is becoming popular among different segments of Mexican society.


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