La Isla de las Muñecas

21 04 2010

One of the odder sites in the area of Mexico City, in the floating gardens of Xochimilco, this is the former habitation of a man who collected dolls to defend himself from the ghost of a small girl who had drowned there. It has now been converted into a tourist spot, because Mexicans like to hustle like that…

Anyway, the most interesting part of the video above is around the four minute mark when the caretaker describes the “Miraculous Doll” that people bring gifts for in exchange for favors and miracles. She apparently has a following.

As we have written before, such fetishism was not uncommon in much of the Catholic world, as sacred wells, holy dirt, and other phenomena attest.

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5 responses

21 04 2010
saemann

Very interesting…and really, really creepy. I imagine those dolls at night are enough to give anyone a heart attack!

21 04 2010
random Orthodox chick

I don’t speak Spanish, so do the dolls serve as a means of distraction for the ghost of the little girl (like the counting distraction earlier discussed)?

21 04 2010
mcmlxix

This is off topic, but you should see the May issue of National Geographic. It has an article on “Mexico’s Shocking New Saints”. It profiles La Santa Muerte and Jesús Malverde in context of the drugs issue.

22 04 2010
Arturo Vasquez

My mother-in-law brings my wife issues of National Geographic, but always a month behind. But most of the coverage of these issues, including the stuff you read from Mexico, is so myopic that it makes me wants to pull my hair out (if I had any hair). There is very little intellectual effort to engage these “new cults” (again, a problematic term) on a real theoretical level. Even anthropologists and those who have some acumen in terms of analyzing popular religion don’t really connect the Catholic side to seemingly “pagan” behavior of adherents. In other words, there is very little historical depth, and no “educated person” seems to take it on its own terms.

“Santa Muerte is a distant ancestor of an Aztec goddess.”

“All of these new saints are such a departure from the ‘real’ Catholicism that came before.”

Etc.

People don’t realize that Santa Muerte is just an amalgam of other “orthodox” saints with particularly disturbing imagery behind it. Many of the prayers are plagiarized from Spanish binding prayers to St. Helen. Nor does anyone seem to consider that there is an Italian version of Santa Muerte. Also, bandits have been venerated in the Catholic world almost from day one, with cults similar to Jesus Malverde in early modern Italy, Argentina, and other parts of Mexico. Heck, if you really think about it, Charlemagne, Constantine, and many “canonized kings” were no better than thugs. One person wore a crown and wielded a sword, another didn’t. And of course, ordinary saints were invoked for less-than-edifying things, as was cited in the binding prayers above. St. Michael in Sicily was invoked in a form of street knife fighting, and I am sure that knights in the Middle Ages prayed that some saint would guide their sword towards the enemy’s throat… The only difference is: one thing is approved, and the other isn’t. St. Pius V prays that an entire fleet of Turkish boats sinks into the ocean, another prays to Jesus Malverde that he doesn’t get caught smuggling a dozen kilos of cocaine in his truck. Everyone can draw up distinctions, but they can be very unconvincing at the end of the day.

Click here for my review of the best book on la Santa Muerte by the now deceased E. Bryant Holman:

http://arturovasquez.wordpress.com/2009/01/22/la-santisima-muerte-a-mexican-folk-saint/

22 04 2010
mcmlxix

Your point is well taken.

But I received my education in anthropology, and I think that if one interested in studying folk religion (legitimately) then it may also useful to study the information that the folk (in this case middle class Americans) receive about and how they react to such folk religions.

That said, studying any religion (however serious) pales to practicing that religion. “Having gained this knowledge, one quickly attains supreme peace or liberation. The irrational, the faithless, and the disbeliever perishes. There is neither this world, nor the world beyond, nor happiness for the disbeliever.” – Bhagavad-gītā 4:39-4 Which I interpret to mean if you don’t have the faith or practice, you just won’t “get it”.

Thanks for the link.

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