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Thursday, 26 March 2009

30 chapels devoted to “Saint Death” - a figure that is worshipped by drug traffickers - in the northern city of Nuevo Laredo


Mexican federal authorities used bulldozers to bring down more than 30 chapels devoted to “Saint Death” - a figure that is worshipped by drug traffickers - in the northern city of Nuevo Laredo, the daily Reforma reported Wednesday.The image of the saint is a skeleton dressed and adorned as a woman, and is not based on any particular Roman Catholic saint. Many criminals, but also people without a criminal record and even police officers, have taken it as their patron saint.


Although the figure is venerated by people from many walks of life, the saint has been adopted by drug gangs. In recent years, there has been a proliferation around Mexico in the construction of such chapels - varying in size from small shrines to larger buildings - from materials including brick, marble, iron and tiles.

They use Roman Catholic symbolism and ceremonies, although the formal church rejects worship of “Saint Death” as a pagan tradition and the authorities have long removed the tradition from the list of the country’s religious associations. In Mexico City, there is even a sanctuary and a so-called bishop - a man with no known ties to drug trafficking - for worship of “Saint Death.”According to the report in Reforma, the chapels that were destroyed in Nuevo Laredo were on an access road to the city. One was a two-floor building and featured a 2-metre-tall image of Saint Death.The owner of one of the altars told reporters that he had spent some 13,700 dollars to build it and decorate it.“When you go in or out of Nuevo Laredo you see these chapels, which are most impressive, spectacular, but people constantly complain that they give the impression that this is a place for criminals,” an unidentified official source told the daily, to explain the decision.
More than 6,300 people were killed last year in Mexico in incidents linked to organized crime and drug trafficking. The authorities have massively deployed soldiers and federal police officers to combat crime.

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