Figures of Death: Hybridity and Violence in la Santa Muerte

Marroquí­n, Jessica, Spanish - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Amago, Samuel, AS-Spanish, Italian & Portuguese, University of Virginia
Bigelow, Allison, AS-Spanish, Italian & Portuguese, University of Virginia
Gerli, Michael, AS-Spanish, Italian & Portuguese, University of Virginia
Operé, Fernando, AS-Spanish, Italian & Portuguese, University of Virginia
Owensby, Brian, AS-History, University of Virginia

Over the last twenty years, la Santa Muerte, or Holy Death, has been identified in the public imaginary as a violent folk saint associated with the drug trade and the underbelly of evil. This identity interpretation of la Santa Muerte has been promoted through representations in popular culture and media. Rethinking la Santa Muerte through literary manifestations paints a panoramic picture of her history in print and image. This dissertation examines la Santa Muerte and her connections – or disconnections – to representations of death in lettered and visual acts during the late eighteenth, late nineteenth, and early twentieth centuries in Mexico. This project also illustrates the fundamental role of the Internet and social media in the construction of a community of followers and proliferation of la Santa Muerte at the turn of the twenty-first century. As a whole, this project expands on our understanding of la Santa Muerte and shows how she has moved and travelled temporal, literary, and physical borders.

Can we rethink of la Santa Muerte as more than a narco-saint? What is the relationship between literature, a fragmented body politic, violence, and the emergence of a privately worshipped figure in public spaces? Is she a revolutionary figure to institutionalized Catholicism in Mexico and the Southwestern United States? This dissertation offers a diachronic study of la Santa Muerte that demonstrates how this figure of death has become an avatar of “past” religious and histories and questions the very distinction of “past” and “present” in the construction of modern Mexico.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Santa Muerte, Holy Death, Mexico , death, Internet, twentieth century, twenty first century, nineteenth century, social media, narcocorridos
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