More movie moments with la Pelona

21 07 2010

I had another strange eoncounter with la Santa Muerte recently. AG and I went to eat dim sum with friends this past weekend. As usual, so much social activity was too much for us, so we returned home and switched on the T.V. As usual, we had two hundred channels of nothing to watch, but out of sheer nostalgia, I paused at the Spanish-language station when I saw they were showing an India María movie. For those who are rusty in regards to their Mexican popular culture of the last four decades, la India María was a comedic character created by María Elena Velasco that embodies the Mexican equivalent of “black face”, though the veiled racisim here is a little more innocuous. María is just a poor Indian woman confused with urban life and the newfangled ways of the people she encounters in the city. But she proves to be more cunning than everyone else, and manages to save the day in spite of herself. I can’t tell you how many times as a child growing up in the 1980’s I was forced to attend movies or watch on T.V. Velasco’s slapstick antics.

Well, serendipity struck twice, since the above scene was the one I encountered when I turned the channel to the Spanish station. It is a macabre scene in the 1976 film, El miedo no anda en burro (literally, “Fear does not ride a donkey”). She encounters a man playing the organ with, of all things, a picture of la Santa Muerte over the keyboard. Not much explanation is given regarding the placement of the picture. Nor does the picture seem to be more than a personification of death in the context of the movie. But the image is very much the one that is venerated by her devotees. Just another interesting piece of my armchair urban anthropology on a Saturday afternoon.


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