Ready To Die: The Worship of Death in Los Angeles
Mentor:José Orozco, Associate Professor of History , Whittier College
Santa Muerte or Saint Death is a new religious movement centered on the worship of death. The religion was born in Mexico City, but it has recently crossed the US-Mexico border. In the last decade many news publications and magazines have published short articles about the growth of Santa Muerte. While they provide the general public with information about the phenomenon, they often do not shed enough detail about the Santa Muerte new religious movement or the immigrant populations that embrace it. In particular, no one has described the components of a Santa Muerte worship service. My research question is how do immigrants in Los Angeles worship Santa Muerte. Through ethnographic observations at three Santa Muerte churches in Los Angeles, I move beyond the fears propagated through popular culture and law enforcement to describe the three components of the Santa Muerte worship service, which are the rosary, the discussion, and the limpia. These three components are analyzed through Luis D. Leon’s theoretical framework on Sacred Poetics and Avery F. Gordon’s study of haunting and the sociological imagination.