Here is an excerpt from Robin Emmott's Reuters.com article:
"In secret meetings that draw on elements of Haitian Voodoo, Cuban Santeria and Mexican witchcraft, priests are slaughtering chickens on full moon nights on beaches, smearing police with the blood and using prayers to evoke spirits to guard them as drug cartels battle over smuggling routes into California. Other police in the city of Tijuana, across the border from San Diego, tattoo their bodies with Voodoo symbols, believing they can repel bullets... Badly-paid Mexican police have long prayed to Christian saints before going out on patrol in Mexico, the world's second-most populous Roman Catholic country after Brazil... Army raids on homes of police working for cartels have found ornately adorned Santeria-type altars covered with statues and skulls stuffed with money paying homage to gods and spirits... Many police see a need to shield themselves from witchcraft used by drug gangs who mix Caribbean black magic and occultism from southern Mexico using things like human bones, dead bats and snake fangs to curse enemies and unleash evil spirits... The rituals are carried out by sometimes shadowy Mexicans who have menial day jobs and are priests by night. They claim to be trained in Voodoo, Santeria and other religions from time spent in the Caribbean and in Mexican towns like Catemaco, a center for witchcraft on the Gulf of Mexico." Link to Full Article
I'm very excited to have my first guest posting of analysis on this article. I'd like to introduce readers to Tony M. Kail, who is an author as well as a trainer for numerous local, state and federal agencies. Tony has spent twenty years researching magico-religious cultures throughout the world. He is the author of two books for law enforcement professionals and numerous articles on the subjects of cults, sects and deviant groups. He has also served as a peace officer and animal cruelty investigator. Tony has lectured for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, United States Capitol Police and the United States Army. You can read more about his consulting work HERE. Tony also has a book out, titled "Santa Muerte: Mexico's Mysterious Saint of Death," and you can read more about him and the book HERE. For now, here is Tony's take on the above article.
Analysis: The mixture of criminality and magico-religious practices has become a growing phenomenon among street gangs and drug cartels. Historically criminal organizations throughout the world have taken advantage of local folklore and religious faith in order to get a magical "edge" against their enemies. It is understandable that members of organizations like MS-13 would gravitate toward using "anti-Christian" symbolism in their graffiti and tattoos. "Demonized" symbols help promote fear and communicate an air of "power" toward those outside of these subcultures. Likewise the embracing of local spiritual traditions from the worship of folk saints such as Santa Muerte to Santeria take on a dark connotation among these criminal elements. It is unfortunate to those who practice these spiritual traditions. Most religions such as Santeria, Palo Mayombe and Voodoo are practiced by adherents who are not involved in criminal activity. It is those who use these spiritual traditions for selfish means to protect criminal activities that are frequently associated with these faiths.
It would be interesting to know if these cartels that are using these religious practices were familiar with these faiths prior to involvement in criminal activities. Matamoros killer Adolfo DeConstanzo grew up around the religious traditions of Santeria and Palo Mayombe. It was only during his later years that he sought to misuse these traditions in concert with criminal activity. Are members of the cartels discovering that magico-religious practices can be incorporated into their deadly narco-culture or are these spiritual traditions that they grew up around and now simply bring them into gang-life?
The prevalence of shrines dedicated to folk saints and Afro-Caribbean deities at crime scenes may be remnants of local culture. If we discovered statues of the Buddha in the homes of Asian criminals would this be so out of the ordinary? We have to take into consideration the cultural atmosphere in which many of these groups operate. I believe this is also an argument that should be considered in light of the Mexican authorities seeking to destroy the shrines and chapels dedicated to Santa Muerte. There are many followers of the "holy death" that are not involved in drug cartels and criminal activity.
The allegations that Mexican authorities may be involved in some of these magico-religious practices comes at no surprise. A therapeutic "magical war" between the police and criminals may only result in the discovery of many "spells" or "workings" between the two parties and increased sales in occult supplies in the region. In U.S. law enforcement history, South Carolina Sheriff Ed McTeer was a legendary lawman that became famous for his skills as a "root doctor." McTeer served as Sherriff in a region where "root magic" was popular among criminals. McTeer's reputation as a "spiritual worker" became a psychological "edge" that created fear in local criminals. Perhaps the Mexican authorities are using this same technique.
The use of magical rituals and charms might provide those officers who are culturally accustomed to these practices a feeling of spiritual strength. Like the use of "war paint" on a warriors face, the use of ritual may provide some individuals with a sense of spiritual protection. An argument might be also be made that this increased "spiritual stress" between the police and criminals may only add to an already high stressed atmosphere in streets of Mexico. Could this result in a magical war that pushes police or criminals to perform extreme ceremonies that result in violence?
The Mexican authorities are definitely engaging in some form of "psychological warfare" against the cartels. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.