welcome to cem

centro de estudios mexicanos


about us



Juan Antonio Flores, Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha

Dances of Death in the Neoliberal Age. Adopted, holy and patrimonialized deaths in Latin America

This paper ethnographically explores imaginaries in Latin American societies where death has a role and relevant agency. It looks at its connection to figures and emerging cults that claim to embody death as a value and heritage. Based on the study of the Santa Muerte in Mexico, the paper makes a comparison to processes of cultural patrimonialization of death in other American societies. It focuses on the manufacture of miraculous deaths –folk saints- in cemeteries, and on the popular ‘adoption’ of anonymous deadly victims of violence in Colombia. In territories deeply affected by neoliberalism and violence in Latin America, these emerging cults become connected to the experience of their practitioners to take control of their lives in a context of social vulnerability and abandonment by state institutions and formal structures. They are "walking dead" who enjoy good health and dance in a ritual choreography staged by popular priorities.

Juan Antonio Flores Martos

Juan Antonio Flores Martos is associate professor of social and cultural anthropology specialized in Latin American culture at the Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha (Spain). Since 1998, he is a founding and active member of the "Grupo de Estudios de Etnología Americana” in Trujillo (Cáceres). He has done ethnographic fieldwork about the anthropology of the body, emotions, rituals and new spiritual imaginaries in Mexico (especially in Veracruz), Bolivia and Spain. In 2012, he was research fellow at the Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social (CIESAS) and the University of Veracruz. He has published several texts on Mexican Santa Muerte, and is editor of Etnografías de la muerte y las culturas en América Latina (2007).