Connect with us

News

Santa Muerte and five more ‘religious’ saints worshiped by drug cartels

Published

on

By

Santa Muerte and five more ‘religious’ saints worshiped by drug cartels

Santa Muerte has a fondness for tequila, cigarettes, candy — and human blood.

The saint is a favorite of Mexican and Central American drug traffickers who are known to leave the severed heads of their enemies at improvised shrines, featuring wax effigies and votive candles emblazoned with the skeletal image of the one also known as Holy Death.

Dressed in a flowing white robe and often wielding both a scythe and a globe, Santa Muerte — a cross between the Grim Reaper and the Virgin of Guadeloupe, Mexico’s patron saint — is just one of a rapidly growing religious movement of “narco saints,” worshiped by drug traffickers who pray to them for protection, riches and the silence necessary to mask their underworld dealings.

“The narcos and the gangs all believe in the power of prayer,” said Robert Almonte, a Texas-based security consultant and former deputy chief of the El Paso Police Department who specialized in narcotics. “They believe that the saints will protect them no matter what they do — and that’s dangerous because it emboldens the traffickers who truly believe they can get away with murder and still go to heaven.”

The movement is growing, with estimates of up to 12 million devotees in Mexico and, now, parts of the US. American law enforcement officials struggling under the recent wave of illegal migrant crossings are increasingly documenting altars to the macabre saint — and another, Jesus Maldverde — in stash houses in US border communities where Mexican drug cartel members often hold migrants for ransom, Almonte said.

So-called narco saints, such as Santa Muerta, are rising in popularity — with estimates of up to 12 million devotees in Mexico and, now, parts of the US.
Gustavo Graf/REUTERS

Not that these saints are canonized. The Catholic Church has condemned Santa Muerte worship as “blasphemous and Satanic.” When Pope Francis visited Mexico for the first time in 2016, he condemned the cult, which is one of the fastest growing new “religious” movements in the world, according to the Catholic Herald.

“I am particularly concerned about those many persons who, seduced by the empty power of the world, praise illusions and embrace their macabre symbols to commercialize death in exchange for money,” the Pope said, referring to Santa Muerte. “I urge you not to underestimate the moral and antisocial challenge which the drug trade represents for Mexican society as a whole, as well as for the Church.”

Altars to Santa Muerte are created in private homes, with larger statues erected in public squares in impoverished parts of Mexico. There is also a Santa Muerte sanctuary, with several life-sized effigies of the saint, in an industrial area of Las Vegas.

Gangs know not to touch any money left at saint shrines for fear of enduring the saint's wrath.
Gangs know not to touch any money left at saint shrines for fear of enduring the saint’s wrath.
LightRocket via Getty Images

In some cases, Santa Muerte altars feature bundles of cash offerings, which are considered sacrosanct. Rival narcos — including members of the notorious MS-13 gang from El Salvador — know not to touch the money for fear of enduring the saint’s wrath, law enforcement officials say.

Many of the gruesome murders, including beheadings and human sacrifices, committed by Mexican drug gangs are done so in the name of Santa Muerte, said Almonte, who is writing a book about the cult.

In a 2016 interview, a sicario for the Juarez Cartel named Edgar described his worship, telling documentary filmmakers during a prison interview that, before each hit job, he would pray to the saint to ensure that everything would go according to plan.

Robert Almonte, a Texas-based security consultant and former deputy chief of the El Paso Police Department, says cartels and gang members believe in the power of prayer.
Robert Almonte, a Texas-based security consultant and former deputy chief of the El Paso Police Department, says cartels and gang members believe in the power of prayer.
Courtesy of Robert Almonte

“I actually sacrifice people for my Santa Muerte,” said Edgar, then 26. “The thing is that I kill for ordering, but I talk to her and say, ‘Hey, I go to a job. Just make me hit, I am gonna give you that life, it is for you.’” Edgar claimed he had killed 60 people on the orders of the Juarez Cartel.

The Santa Muerte cult traces its roots to colonial-era Mexico when devotees worshiped the folk deity in secret after the Catholic Church had banned the practice. The cult gained prominence in the 1940s and then again in 2001 when a street vendor named Queta Romero mounted an outdoor shrine to Santa Muerte in Tepito, one of Mexico’s City’s most violent neighborhoods. Thousands came to worship at the shrine — including women who prayed to the saint to make their husbands’ mistresses disappear.

Almonte, who is a former federal marshal, has been documenting the Santa Muerte cult since 1985 and spent the last several years crisscrossing the country, lecturing US law enforcement about Santa Muerte as well as a pantheon of other narco saints — including Jesus Malverde, a mustachioed Robin Hood-like bandit revered among the Sinaloa Cartel and considered the patron saint of drug traffickers in Mexico.

Followers of Santa Muerte can trace it's roots back to colonial Mexico when it became a mashup of indigenous and Catholic symbolism.
Followers of Santa Muerte have been known to tattoo the saint’s name and likeness on their body and place her stickers on their cars.
Eduardo Verdugo/AP

During jury selection at the 2018 trial of former Sinaloa Cartel chief Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman in Brooklyn federal court, potential jurors were asked if they were familiar with Jesus Malverde, a legendary figure of pre-Revolution Mexico.

Jesus Malverde and Santa Muerte are often honored together in ceremonies throughout Mexico, although human sacrifices are not offered to Malverde, cartel experts told The Post.

In January, 2010, a trafficker placed a decapitated head next to the tomb of legendary cartel leader Arturo Beltran Leyva, who had been killed in his apartment surrounded by Santa Muerte paraphernalia. The suggestion was that the drug dealer had placed the severed head next to the grave as an offering to Santa Muerte, experts said.

In 2012, self-proclaimed high priests, David Romo Guillen, was sentenced to 66 years in prison for kidnapping and extortion.
In 2012, David Romo Guillén, one of the self-proclaimed “high priests” of Santa Muerte, was sentenced to 66 years in prison for kidnapping and extortion.
Mario Guzman/EPA/Shutterstock

“When we see a deep criminal Santa Muerte connection it’s about the gaining of some
sort of favor [vast riches or the death of an enemy] or supernatural powers [spiritual armor] via the reaping of a soul,” Robert Bunker, a security consultant and University of Southern California instructor, told The Post. “Sometimes this is ritualized and other times it is not.”

Authorities have also documented a handful of Santa Muerte-influenced murders on the US side of the border, including a 2010 beheading in Chandler, Ariz. Cook County prosecutors in Chicago documented 13 Santa Muerte-affiliated murders between 2009 and 2011 by cartel kill teams. One killing crew had Santa Muerte stickers on their vehicles, tattoos on their bodies, altars in their homes and Santa Muerte-stamped bands to hold their cash, the Chicago Tribune reported.

In 2012, the cult made headlines in Mexico when one of its self-proclaimed high priests, David Romo Guillén, was sentenced to 66 years in prison for kidnapping and extortion. Earlier, he had called for holy war against the Catholic Church. Most of the Santa Muerte adherents live in Mexico, and the vast majority are not as hardcore as drug trafficker devotees, worshiping the folk deity without resorting to any acts of violence.

Jesus Malverde is revered among the Sinaloa Cartel and considered the patron saint of drug traffickers in Mexico.
Jesus Malverde is revered among the Sinaloa Cartel and considered the patron saint of drug traffickers in Mexico.
dpa/AP

According to Bunker, who has also worked with the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit, “A component of the cartel and gang members have gone down the path of ‘dark’ Santa Muerte worship as opposed to more benign Santa Muerte veneration” — which represents the vast majority of adherents in general society and also criminal groups who may be into SM “lite.”

Almonte recalled being approached by a police officer who was not able to crack a difficult homicide case until finding a note — written by a suspect seeking protection — at the crime scene.

“She would only have written that if she needed protection from us,” said the officer in an email to Almonte that was viewed by The Post. “She then broke down and told us about how the suspect used her rental car to commit the murder and that the prayer was written to help them from getting caught.”

As cartels continue to make inroads into the US, Santa Muerte-influenced violence is expected to increase, experts say.

“What I tell the officers when I am training them is that the cartel guys are doing this in Mexico and they will continue to do the same things here,” Almonte said. “It’s going to get worse here.”

A GUIDE TO THE NARCO SAINTS

Santa Muerte Unlike most of the other folk saints revered by cartels and gangs, Santa Muerte — also known as Holy Death — is not based upon a real person. Dressed in a flowing white robe and often wielding both a scythe and a globe, she's a cross between the Grim Reaper and the Virgin of Guadeloupe, Mexico's patron saint, and murders are committed in her name.
Santa Muerte: Unlike most of the other folk saints revered by cartels and gangs, Santa Muerte — also known as Holy Death — is not based upon a real person. Dressed in a flowing white robe and often wielding both a scythe and a globe, she’s a cross between the Grim Reaper and the Virgin of Guadalupe, Mexico’s patron saint, and murders are committed in her name.

Jesus Malverde: You might know the Robin Hood-like bandit from a Season 2 episode of “Breaking Bad,” when DEA agent Hank laughs at the notion of drug dealers praying to the saint. But indeed they do, as Malverde — who was allegedly killed by police in 1909 — has become the patron of outlaws, especially in his home state of Sinaloa, Mexico.

San Simon or Maximon With his dapper suit and perfectly groomed mustache, the Guatemalan folk hero and Mayan deity bears a strong resemblance to Jesus Malverde. According to legend, he fought against the Spanish and was hired by fishermen to protect the virtue of their wives — although he ended up seducing all of them. He is the patron saint of the underworld in Guatemala, but has many followers in the US, said Almonte.
San Simon or Maximon: With his dapper suit and perfectly groomed mustache, the Guatemalan folk hero and Mayan deity bears a strong resemblance to Jesus Malverde. According to legend, he fought against the Spanish and was hired by fishermen to protect the virtue of their wives — although he ended up seducing all of them. He is the patron saint of the underworld in Guatemala, but has many followers in the US, said Almonte.

Nino de Atocha: The Holy Infant of Atocha, who has roots in 13th-century Spain, is the patron saint of prisoners and travelers– and popular among drug traffickers. Medellin cartel leader Pablo Escobar had altars in many of his safe houses dedicated to the nino (who allegedly appeared to Christian prisoners as a boy who brought them food and water) and made a pilgrimage to Spain to visit the shrine. Mexican drug lord Ovidio Guzman, a son of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, was wearing an amulet of the saint around his neck when he was briefly detained by Mexican authorities in 2019.

San Roman Nonato
San Ramon: In 12th-century Spain, San Ramon was ripped from his mother’s womb after she died in childbirth. He later entered the order of Mercedarian Fathers, who dedicated their lives to freeing Christian captives that had been imprisoned by Muslim conquerors in North Africa. When he could not buy their freedom, he offered himself in exchange for several Christians — taking advantage of the situation to preach the Christian gospel. But his Muslim captors placed a padlock on his mouth so that he could not speak. Drug traffickers often place a coin on the face of his effigy when they pray to him to keep people quiet.

St. Jude: One of the original 12 Apostles of Jesus Christ, St. Jude is the patron saint of lost causes. He is particularly popular among drug traffickers, who pray to him “When they are driving a load of dope down a highway,” said Almonte.

News

Sports world reacts to John Madden’s death

Published

on

By

Sports world reacts to John Madden’s death

Legendary NFL coach and broadcaster John Madden died Tuesday morning at 85, the NFL announced. News of the football icon’s passing hit Twitter on Tuesday evening, and athletes, coaches and broadcasters from across the sports world reacted.

Fellow broadcasting legend Dick Vitale, who is currently battling cancer, called Madden “the greatest analyst of all time of any sport” in his Twitter tribute.

Former Yankees pitcher and notable Raiders fan CC Sabathia said “your legacy will live forever.” Madden coached the then-Oakland Raiders from 1969-78, a couple of years before Sabathia, a Vallejo, California native, was born. Lakers star LeBron James had similar words about Madden’s lasting legacy, adding an infinity emoji.

Former tennis star and social justice activist Billie Jean King recalled meeting Madden as a “privilege.”

Radio voice of the Rangers Kenny Albert, a five-sport broadcaster who’s been with FOX Sports since its inception in 1994, shared a photo circa 26 years ago to remember Madden.

ESPN’s Bomani Jones took a bit of a shot at current color commentators, noting that Madden “set an unreachable standard.”

Frank Caliendo, who’s made a career out of impersonations, including one for Madden, said he was surprised how emotional he felt.

Several football players, and others, including Saints running back Mark Ingram II and former Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant, credited Madden with being part of the reason why they love football.

Rams wide receiver and NFL MVP contender Cooper Kupp quote the late coach in his tribute: “The road to Easy Street goes through the sewer.”

Continue Reading

News

Miles McBride’s Knicks role will lessen with Kemba Walker’s resurgence

Published

on

By

Miles McBride’s Knicks role will lessen with Kemba Walker’s resurgence

MINNEAPOLIS — The Knicks got back another body in rookie point guard Miles McBride, who was cleared from protocols Tuesday and rejoined the team in Minnesota.

But there is no longer any hype for the rookie’s return. Kemba Walker is back as the starting point guard and coming off winning Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors with four standout games, including his Christmas Day spectacular. The Knicks have gone 2-2 since Walker regained the starting job.

“It’s great,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said. “He had a great week. He’s playing great basketball. The team winning helps him get recognized and he was a big part of driving that winning. It’s great for the team.’’

McBride was also spectacular in his last outing before getting COVID-19, when he played the entire second half Dec. 16 in Houston and seemingly earned a spot in the rotation. In fact, McBride had strung together two decent outings before he was ruled out. But things have changed since his emergence and McBride is likely back to being a bit player.

Without a practice, McBride wasn’t even expected to see time when the Knicks faced the Timberwolves to kick off a four-game road trip.

Miles McBride
NBAE via Getty Images

Of course, with Walker’s arthritic knee, anything is possible. The Knicks play Detroit on Wednesday in a back-to-back, so it’s uncertain whether Walker will complete both contests. In addition, Immanuel Quickley is out of COVID-19 protocols but Thibodeau wasn’t sure he was ready for meaningful minutes.

That left Walker against the depleted Timberwolves, who were missing their three top players (Anthony Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell), all because of COVID-19 .

Kemba Walker
Kemba Walker
USA TODAY Sports

When McBride got sidelined by the virus and Derrick Rose needed ankle surgery, Walker was resurrected by Thibodeau and it’s been a stunning comeback story.

Though Thibodeau has clear reservations about Walker based on his nine-game banishment due to his defensive malaise as an undersized point guard, he admitted after the Christmas Day triple-double against Atlanta that Walker is playing “much more aggressive.”

Walker’s triple-double that featured 10 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds was a lot different than his prior outing, when he scored 44 points against Washington.

“I thought his passing was terrific,’’ Thibodeau said before the Knicks resumed their schedule.

“Kemba had control of the game. The game tells you what to do. That’s what I loved about the way he played. I don’t think he forced anything. They puts size on him and were aggressive in their pick-and-roll coverage. He didn’t fight it. He attacked pressure the way you like to attack pressure. You don’t fight pressure with pressure. Don’t try to split it. Get rid of it, go to the backside. Let the game tell you what to do.’’

The Knicks coach is finally seeing all the elements of what Walker can do. Before his demotion, Walker was nothing more than a no-defense, 3-point shooter whose plus-minus was an abysmal minus-122.

Thibodeau was also concerned about his durability in sitting out two of the three back-to-back sets. The last load management game in Atlanta in late November triggered Thibodeau’s decision.

But now it’s only superlatives from Thibodeau in judging the last four games.

“Sometimes it’s going to be his shooting, sometimes it’s his penetration and getting in the paint to force a collapse and sometimes they’re being aggressive with their traps get rid of the ball quickly,’’ Thibodeau said. “The overall play, his rebounding. When your guards rebound, those are key to fast breaks. The more guard rebounding we get the better we can be. ‘’

The Knicks still have three players in protocols — centers Nerlens Noel and Jericho Sims and the newly infected Wayne Selden. Quickley and Kevin Knox were cleared on Christmas but were held out for conditioning.

No matter. The Knicks go as Kemba goes.

“He’s much more aggressive,’’ Thibodeau said. “That was the challenge. At the beginning of the year he and Evan were two new starters. Sometimes guys are trying to fit in. he’s being very aggressive which is the way we want him to play. Not deferring at all. When he and Julius [Randle] are aggressive like that our team is different.’’

Continue Reading

News

Bar raises dramatically for Zach Wilson in matchup with Tom Brady, Buccaneers

Published

on

By

Zach Wilson and Tom Brady

When Zach Wilson stares across the MetLife Stadium field at the opposite sideline this Sunday, it won’t be Trevor Lawrence he’ll be looking at as his game-day counterpart.

Lawrence, drafted by Jacksonville one spot before the Jets selected Wilson at No. 2 overall last April, is a contemporary.

This Sunday at MetLife, the Jets rookie quarterback won’t be staring at a contemporary on the other sideline. He’ll be staring at the GOAT.

Tom Brady.

The bar raises dramatically for Wilson and the Jets, who are coming off of their feel-good, get-well win over the woeful Jaguars and Lawrence this past Sunday.

Brady and Buccaneers, who are 11-4, NFC South division champions and seeking to repeat as Super Bowl champions, play the Jets, who are 4-11 and seeking more signs of development from their rookie quarterback.

To say this is a step up in competition for Wilson and the Jets going from Lawrence and the Jags to Brady and the Bucs is as obvious as pointing out that Tampa Bay receiver Antonio Brown has had a few off-the-field incidents during his otherwise stellar NFL career.

There hasn’t been a lot to keep the interest of the Jets fan this season — other than watching Wilson’s development. That took an unfortunate pause for the four games Wilson missed with a knee injury, but he’s been back for five games and has looked like a better quarterback, throwing only two interceptions in those games (none in the last three) since returning from his injury.

The problem, though, is that Wilson hasn’t been producing enough touchdowns, throwing for three of them and rushing for four others in the past five games.

Zach Wilson and Tom Brady
Zach Wilson and Tom Brady
N.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg; AP

Baby steps, though.

Wilson was the better quarterback this past Sunday when matched up with Lawrence, who threw for more yards than Wilson did, but Wilson ran for 91 yards, including his electric 52-yard scoring jaunt, and made key throws when he needed them.

Wilson will not win Sunday’s game against Brady and the Bucs throwing for the 102 yards he had against the Jaguars. He and the Jets will need more.

Consider this: Brady enters the game having thrown 37 TD passes and for 4,580 yards this season and averages a league-high 305.2 passing yards per game.

Then this: The Buccaneers average 29.5 points per game this season, second most in the NFL.

And this: Wilson doesn’t have a single 300-yard passing game, averages 183 passing yards per game and has thrown seven TD passes in 11 games.

Seven TD passes is a pedestrian two-game total for Brady.

Wilson and the Jets are playing with house money anyway in what always has been a developmental season, so Sunday against Brady should, at its very least, be a great measuring-stick learning experience for Wilson, who’s studied Brady on tape.

Wilson revealed this month that he watched film of Brady before the Jets played the Eagles on Dec. 5 in an effort to pick up tips on how Brady worked against the Eagles defense when he played them earlier in the season.

“I thought it was really cool to see kind of how he went through his whole process, how he navigated the pocket, different things like that,” Wilson said at the time.

On Sunday, Wilson gets to see that process up close as Brady tries to dissect a Jets defense that has yielded 29.9 points per game this season, the most in the NFL.

That puts an added onus on Wilson to produce on the other side of the ball, because he knows Brady is going to get his. Wilson will likely need to produce four TDs — any way he can — for the Jets to simply remain competitive with the Super Bowl champs.

That’s a lot to ask of a 22-year-old kid who’s produced just 11 TDs in his 11 starts, up against Brady, who’s thrown 618 TD passes and for 83,784 yards in his remarkable career.

It, too, is a lot to ask playing against an aggressive Tampa Bay defense that’s ranked No. 9 in the NFL in points allowed (20.8 per game) and is led by former Jets head coach Todd Bowles, who’d surely like to send a holiday message to his former employer.

If you don’t think Bowles will be blitzing the bejesus out of Wilson, then you probably think Antonio Brown is a living saint.

The good news for the Jets is that Wilson has shown incremental improvements, particularly when it comes to his decision-making and quicker releases on his throws.

“He’s coming along, he’s getting more comfortable, he’s calmer back there,’’ Jets coach Robert Saleh said Monday. “He’s in a great headspace and it’s going to be fun to watch him grow, continue to grow.’’

A big part of that growth will take place this Sunday as he watches the GOAT operate from the opposite sideline at MetLife.

Continue Reading

Trending

Copyright © 2017 ArcticNow.com