An unexpected side effect of Mexico's rampant drug violence: more exorcisms. Seven years of brutal killings have created "an infestation of demons," says exorcist Father Francisco Bautista, who sees expelling the evil spirits as the solution. Another priest and exorcist tells the BBC that exorcisms are in such high demand that some priests are performing them nearly every day. Most may not be exactly what you're envisioning, though, as they call for a more entry-level type of exorcism known as liberation prayers, which is appropriate for people who haven't lost full control of their mind and body. Bautista ties the rise in exorcism to the rise in the cult of Santa Muerte, or Saint Death, whose Mexican followers now number an estimated 8 million Mexican.
Though the skeleton figure in a wedding dress has been around since the 18th century, Santa Muerte—a figure growing in the US—has "been adopted by the drug traffickers who ask her for help to avoid arrest and to make money," says Bautista. "In exchange they offer human sacrifices. And this has increased the violence in Mexico." The BBC's Vladimir Hernandez decides to investigate, and visits a famed shrine to Santa Muerte to see if he can find hordes of possessed followers. Instead he comes across middle-class families and pregnant woman who want the saint to safeguard their child. Says the woman who tends to the shrine, "We are in a free country and everyone can do what they want. We all will have to answer to God at some point."