A follower in New Orleans built a public shrine in her honor. An actor in Albuquerque credits her with helping him land a role on Breaking Bad. She turns up routinely along the US-Mexico border at safe houses, and is sighted on dashboards of cars used to smuggle methamphetamine through the southwest desert. Her image has been used on prayer cards citing vengeance and protection, which are sometimes found at scenes of massacred bodies and on shipments of drugs. Popular in Mexico, and sometimes linked to the illicit drug trade, the skeleton saint known as La Santa Muerte in recent years has found a robust and diverse following north of the border: immigrant small business owners, artists, gay activists, and the poor, among others—many of them non-Latinos and not all involved with organized religion.
Clad in a black nun's robe and holding a scythe in one hand, Santa Muerte appeals to people seeking all manner of otherworldly help: from fending off wrongdoing and carrying out vengeance to stopping lovers from cheating and landing better jobs. And others seek her protection for their drug shipments and to ward off law enforcement. The saint is especially popular among Mexican-American Catholics, rivaling that of St. Jude and La Virgen de Guadalupe as a favorite for miracle requests, even as the Catholic Church in Mexico denounces Santa Muerte as satanic, experts say. Some devotees pray to the saint by building altars and offering votive candles, fruits, tequila, cigarettes—even lines of cocaine in some cases—in exchange for wishes. Click for more. (Read more saint stories.)