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Mon Aug 31, 2020, 07:18 AM

Inside Mexico's 'Holy Death' cult

LONG READS

By Evgeny Lebedev
31 August 2020

In Mexico’s war on drugs, death is ever present, and the resurrection of the colonial-era Santa Muerte cult represents a new morbid normality. In this archive piece from 2014, GQ explores how cartel killers make offerings for courage, their relatives pray for protection from the law, and for those living in the crossfire, ‘Holy Death’ is the only sect that makes sense in the world’s most violent cities



You would not notice anything unusual about Julian at first if you met him, as I did, in an American city on a sunny day, with cars whizzing past full of people on their way to the mall. Perhaps you would see that he walks a little awkwardly, but that is all.

He is a handsome guy in his mid-thirties with high cheekbones and a big white smile, and for years he ran a trendy nightclub in a Mexican city. He loved running his own business, he told me. “You’re the boss of your own time,” he said, “you don’t have to tell anybody else what you’re doing.” In his spare time, he would go biking out in the desert.

Gangsters arrived at his business a few years ago, as they did at all the businesses in his town. They demanded “protection” money. If he paid, he would be protected from them, and if he didn’t, he would face their wrath. For years, he paid whatever they asked, and they demanded ever larger sums, until one day he explained that they were bankrupting him and couldn’t give them money he didn’t have. He was terrified, but he had no more money to give and had no choice.
At first they threatened him. Then, after several weeks of threats, they shot him in the arm.

Julian was almost relieved. Now they’ve extracted their price, he thought, I will be able to get on with my life. But they came back, still demanding “their” money. He explained again he didn’t have it. So they dragged him into the street, in the middle of the day, took out a saw, and cut off his feet, in front of everyone.

More:
https://www.gq-magazine.co.uk/politics/article/mexico-holy-death-cult

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Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Mon Aug 31, 2020, 07:36 AM

1. From the article, examples of connections to the U.S.:

Adolfo de Jesús Constanzo, a Cuban-American drug lord, was found after his death in a shoot-out to have ritually sacrificed at least eleven men, women and children to Santa Muerte at the altar at his ranch in Tamaulipas. Among them was a University of Texas student, Mark Kilroy, kidnapped while in Mexico for spring break.

The cartels’ embracing of Santa Muerte as their own has not been limited to Mexico. US law-enforcement agencies now view signs of veneration to the cult, whether a tattoo, necklace or prayer card, as enough to undertake further investigation into a suspect’s drug links. An altar to her was found in New Jersey when officers stormed a brothel being used as a drug den. In Wisconsin, images of her were discovered guarding a dealer’s cocaine stash. In Tennessee, shrines helped hide pounds of marijuana.

“Mexican drug traffickers have embraced the narco-culture in a similar manner to which American street gangs like the Bloods and Crips historically embraced gangster-rap music and culture,” Tony Kail, author of Magico-Religious Groups And Ritualistic Activities, has explained. For some of them, believing Holy Death is on their side gives them the courage to kill. “Santa Muerte is embraced as a ‘literal angel of death’ that can comfort those on the fringes of society who might otherwise lack the spiritual courage to commit acts of crime or violence.”

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Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Mon Aug 31, 2020, 07:52 AM

2. Good article, except this case is unrelated:

Adolfo de Jesús Constanzo, a Cuban-American drug lord, was found after his death in a shoot-out to have ritually sacrificed at least eleven men, women and children to Santa Muerte at the altar at his ranch in Tamaulipas. Among them was a University of Texas student, Mark Kilroy, kidnapped while in Mexico for spring break.


The article says Santa Muerte didn't re-arise until after the turn of the millenium. This (famous) case happened in the late 80s, before the rise of Santa Muerte. It's a notorious case and I'm bewildered the author tosses it in there. Those cult leaders practiced a mixture of Palo Mayombe and Santamaria, but made up a lot of stuff too (and threw in tarot cards for good measure). Constanzo is classified as a serial killer. Totally different.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murder_of_Mark_Kilroy#Profile_of_cult_leaders

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Response to Mike 03 (Reply #2)

Mon Aug 31, 2020, 11:14 AM

5. So Constanzo got off to a drug trafficking start during the "Cocaine Cowboy" era in Miami?

I don't think most U.S. Americans have any idea how intense it was there, then.

I have seen tons of photos of parades, celebrations featuring images of a bride and groom skeletons, I guess connected to Dia de los Muertos, but apparently Constanzo's ideas continued 365 days, every year.

Have never heard of anyone like that.

His profile was an unending nightmare.

I think he would have terrified Charles Manson.

His story is the most hideous life story I have ever heard.

I would imagine Cubans who stayed in Cuba were profoundly lucky his mother moved to Miami.

Just overwhelmed by this information.

The author of the article I posted did bungle the facts of this creature's "life", no doubt about it.

I really appreciate your taking the time to throw some light where it was needed. Thank you.

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Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Mon Aug 31, 2020, 07:57 AM

3. Here's a little bit more about Constanzo's cult.

Constanzo began to believe that his magic spells, many of which he took from Palo Mayombe, were responsible for the success of the cartels and demanded to become a full business partner with one of the most powerful families he knew, the Calzadas. When his demand was rejected, seven family members disappeared. Their bodies turned up later with fingers, toes, ears, brains, and even (in one case) the spine missing.[3] Constanzo soon made friends with a new cartel, the Hernandez brothers. He also took up with a young woman named Sara Aldrete, who became the high priestess of the cult. Constanzo made Aldrete second-in-command of his cult, and directed her to supervise his followers while he was shipping marijuana over the border into the US.

In 1988, Constanzo moved to Rancho Santa Elena, a house in the desert. It is there where he carried out more sadistic ritual murders, sometimes of strangers and other times of rival drug dealers. He also used the ranch to store huge shipments of cocaine and marijuana.[3]

On March 13, 1989, Constanzo's henchmen abducted a pre-med student, Mark Kilroy, from outside a Mexican bar and took him back to the ranch. Kilroy was a US citizen who had been in Mexico on spring break. When Kilroy was brought to the ranch, Constanzo murdered him. Under pressure from Texan politicians, Mexican police initially picked up four of Constanzo's followers, including two of the Hernandez brothers.[4] Police quickly discovered the cult and that Constanzo had been responsible for Kilroy's death; he sought a "good"/superior brain for one of his ritual spells. Officers raided the ranch and discovered Constanzo's cauldron, which contained various items such as a dead black cat and a human brain.[4] Fifteen mutilated corpses were dug up at the ranch, one of them Kilroy's.[4] Officials said Kilroy was killed by Constanzo with a machete chop to the back of the neck when Kilroy tried to escape about 12 hours after being taken to the ranch.[5]


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adolfo_Constanzo


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Response to Mike 03 (Reply #3)

Mon Aug 31, 2020, 10:26 AM

4. Astounding monster! I just looked at google images to post a photo of him, but I can't do it!

Here's the shortened link to the page of images in thumbnails, which link to their articles. I simply don't have what it takes to post a photo. I am on the verge of barfing just looking at the tiny versions (thumbnails) of the photos. This is probably the worst serial killer I've seen. He revels in his obsession:

https://tinyurl.com/yxuvuneg

How on earth could he have happened?

Oh, wow.

I trust you've seen Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein...

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