If you want to understand Mexican culture, DEVOTED TO DEATH must be in your personal library. It is a detailed examination of Santa Muerte, Mexico’s most famous folk saint. Santa Muerte is regarded as the personification of death; a active deity with amazing powers.
I expected dry and factual content that occasionally strayed into the scary and creepy. But R. Andrew Chesnut, a professor of religious studies, has a very readable style blending field research, academic rigor, and personal humor. The book is organized into chapters based on the color of candle lit at many a Santa Muerte altar. Each color represents a different petition or characteristic of the folk saint, who is always shown as a female skeleton holding a scythe and a globe. Chesnut explains all of the symbolism related to the folk saint, as well as its origins and profiles of today’s worshippers.
His research took him to the altars made by devotees across Mexico. He also explains the Catholic Church’s opposition to Santa Muerte, the saint’s links to drug cartels, and the relationship in Mexico’s narrative with the Virgin of Guadalupe. A fascinating read and the only book of its kind I have found in English.