Santa Muerte: The New Immigrant
Mentor:Jose Orozco, Associate Professor, Whittier College
Santa Muerte or Holy Death is a new religious movement centered on the worship of death. The religion was born in Mexico City, but it has recently crossed the US-Mexico border into Southern California botanicas, which are markets that sell medicinal herbs, incense, magic potions, candles, and saint figurines. In the last decade many news publications and magazines have published short articles about the growth of Santa Muerte botanicas. While they provide the general public with information about the phenomenon, they often do not shed enough detail about the botanicas, the Santa Muerte new religious movement, or the immigrant populations that embrace it. This is the gap in knowledge that my study hopes to fill. The study is based on qualitative research and field observations in Southern California Santa Muerte botanicas. Through ethnographic observations and interviews I will move beyond the popular culture fears of Santa Muerte propagated in such television shows such as Breaking Bad and Dexter. My study will uncover the role Santa Muerte botanicas play in the formation of Mexican immigrant religiosity, personal identity and political engagement.