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Vatican denounces Santa Muerte, stores look the other way

Cory Marshall

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Vatican denounces Santa Muerte, stores look the other way

CREATED May. 9, 2013

TUCSON(KGUN9-TV) - Odds are, you have probably seen it in store windows and all over town. Popular in Mexico and Tucson, the skeletal figure known as Santa Muerte is taking some heat from the Vatican.

Wednesday, the Vatican's culture minister denounced Mexico's folk Death Saint, calling it a "degeneration against religion."

The announcement denouncement was made during a forum for believers and non-believers in Mexico City.

Fernando Cordova is a Tucson store owner and admittedly, pretty religious. In fact, he says he is so religious, when Santa Muerte memorabilia started picking up in popularity he was not sure he wanted to handle the stuff, much less sell it in his store, worried it was sacrilegious.

Then, he says, customers started demanding it.

"It sells immediately, so you know you have to keep the customer happy and sell what they want, not what you want to," Cordova explained.

So, when Rome sent down the no-go on Santa Muerte, calling the cloaked woman a "blasphemy against religion and "anti-religious," some store owners, like Cordova, respectfully looked the other way.

"Being a religious man yourself, it won't change some of your business practices here?"
 Nine On Your Side's Cory Marshall asked Cordova.

"No, because then I wouldn't be open," Cordova said. "I'm surprised because maybe they don't know how popular it's gotten [and] how people have built a great belief behind it."

The belief is exactly what the Vatican is taking issue with, saying Cartel members and people in drug-torn neighborhoods make up the Muerte following.

Some practicing Catholics call it a fad.

"I do see other people really devoted to it," Tucson resident Jaime Tapia said while standing outside St. Augustine Cathedral.

Despite the Vatican's denouncement, do not expect the skeletal statues to disappear from store shelves anytime soon.