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Andrew Chesnut, Virginia Commonwealth University

The Reliable Reapress: Santa Muerte, the Miracle-Worker

The paper will explore the Mexican folk saint's paramount role as a multitasking miracle-worker. Drawing on both European and Mexican cultural antecedents in which death possesses awesome curing powers and tapping into the well-established tradition of saints (both canonized and folk) who heal through faith, Santa Muerte in just a decade has become one of the greatest miracle-workers on the Mexican religious landscape. On the basis of her reputation as a fast and efficacious agent of health, wealth, and love, the cult of Saint Death in just thirteen years has become the fastest growing new religious movement in the Americas, with millions of followers in the U.S., Mexico, and Central America! The paper will also consider the growing conflict with the Catholic church in Mexico in which the Bony Lady has been condemned as blasphemy and even Satanism.

Andrew Chesnut

R. Andrew Chesnut holds the Bishop Walter F. Sullivan Chair in Catholic Studies and is Professor of Religious Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University. He conducts research on the new religious economy of Latin America and the cult of Santa Muerte. A specialist in Latin American religion, he is the author of Devoted to Death, the Skeleton Saint (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), also translated as Santa Muerte: La Segadora Segura (Ariel Editorial, 2013), Competitive Spirits: Latin America's New Religious Economy (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003), and of Born Again in Brazil: The Pentecostal Boom and the Pathogens of Poverty (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1997).