Mal’ Occhio

24 02 2009

Somewhat related is the following quote from Couliano’s Eros and Magic in the Renaissance :

Ficino remains of the same opinion as Plato and Galen: in the act of seeing, “the internal fire” is externalized through the eyes, mixed with the pneumatic vapor and even with the thin blood that engendered spirit. That theory is confirmed by Aristotle himself, who relates that menstruating women who look look at themselves in the mirror leave little drops of blood on its surface. This can only mean that it is the thin blood brought to the eyes along with the pneuma.

See also this post on the existence of the evil eye in Mexican culture.

Maria Lionza

5 12 2008

The Parody of Paganism in the Postmodern World

7 07 2008

Part II: How the radical lesbian Wicca-practicing “Chicana” feminist scholar is NOT like my grandmother

As I have stated before, there is a tendency amongst more educated Mexican-American middle class scholars to elevate the indigenous hertiage of Mexico over and above the “Hispanic” Catholic elements that have historically been more dominant. Pre-Columbian Mexico is seen as a paradise of pluralism, paganism and proto-feminism that was destroyed by Cortes and his merry band of male chauvinist pigs. In their minds as well, there has always been “resistance” to the destruction of the indigenous religion by the Catholic Church, and such images and practices as the Virgin of Guadalupe and folk healing known as curanderismo were encoded messages that passed on the true pagan faith from generation to generation. The radical feminist scholar, Gloria Anzaldua, wrote in this regard that the task of the “Chicana” (radical Mexican-American woman desperately seeking tenure) was to skip over her parent’s generation of “assimilation” towards the generation of the grandmothers, who through their being able to cure the evil eye with an egg are deemed to be secret pagans worshipping the Aztec mother goddess.
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Chuy Malverde

17 06 2008

These individuals will be made saints by the Vatican three years after hell freezes over.


-Jim Griffith, in an interview in the Tuscon Weekly

Jesus Malverde is a Mexican folk saint very much in the news. He is now supposedly the “patron saint” of drug smugglers, and his cult stretches all the way from California to Cali, Colombia. Many doubt that he actually existed, but if he did, he was probably a Robin Hood-like bandit executed by hanging in the twilight of the reign of Porfirio Diaz in 1909. His shrine is in Culiacan in the northern state of Sinaloa.  It is said that his first miracle was when a farmer looking for his lost head of cattle saw the bones of Malverde rotting on the tree and asked him to help him find his lost property. He found it soon afterward, and the legend was born.

Since Sinaloa, being a northern state, was a natural venue for the drug trade, people began to invoke Malverde for their various dealings, along with more conventional requests. They even wrote a corrido (ballad) for him that has been covered by many Mexican popular bands, like Los Cadetes de Linares:

A partial translation of the song:

It’s been good for me all year, that’s why I come to visit you. From Culiacan to Columbia, long live Jesus Malverde! This hung saint who has brought me good luck!

My image of you always has a candle burning in front of it in your honor, and I always carry your photo with me wherever I go, and especially in all my dealings, I always find your blessing.

While Malverde may not be a saint of my devotion, I don’t necessarily think that his cult is as horrible as some have made it out to be. It is certainly nowhere near as bad as the cult to “Most Holy Death”, and the circumstances are a little less bizarre than the cult of Juan Soldado in Tijuana which had my grandmother as a devotee. Besides, the poor guy can’t be blamed for the actions of those who pray to him, and many pray for his intercession in matters of health, job searches, and other things. He represents, in the end, the Mexican distrust of authority and the desperation of people who often do not have many options in life save prayer.

On Being Corporeal in the Modern World

9 06 2008

…Or: The Luxury of Monday morning theological quaterbacking

When I was a teenager, one of the Mexican religious icons I began to notice was that of the poor beggar Lazarus from the Gospels who is represented with open soars and with dogs licking those soars. This is part of the earthiness of Spanish Catholicism that I have described before: the use of images of the fallen world to ascend beyond the world of appearances towards the absolute. Indeed, I have read in some places (they escape me now and my readers can thus confirm is this is true) that some Spanish kings would be buried with open caskets to show their decay to their subjects: even their mortal kings, when you got down to it, were but rot, dust, and ashes.
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Juan Soldado

4 06 2008

 A Story of Violence, Haunting, and Hope on the Borderlands 

My dad and I stumbled onto the scene several summers ago, when I was hiding out in Tijuana from reality and my crazy ex-vieja, who got so cranked on crystal meth one night, she called me the Antichrist. My father, a staunch Irish-Catholic, was startled by the festive atmosphere in the graveyard. People were having a good time as they partied with the dead; children were everywhere, playing tag around the tombstones as their musical laughter rang through the graveyard. A man placed a recent picture of his son, dark and surly in a Raiders jacket, on a small table inside the shrine. In a scribbled note accompanying the photo, the father pleaded with Juan Soldado to save his son from prison: You know he is innocent, he implored; you have to free him before something terrible happens inside that jail.

The image stayed with me, and a few weeks later I noticed a new picture, with father and son posing in front of a church, pinned to the wall above the old note. His son had been freed, and the father had come to the altar on his knees to give thanks to the soldier-saint.

-taken from Patrick Maher’s article in the San Diego Reader
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“Holy” Death

29 05 2008

Okay, this is just getting out of hand…

I was going to write another post, but this came up. While I still intend to write a longer, more theoretical post on the phenomenon of “La Santisima Muerte”, I will say here that I find this profoundly unsettling. According to my preliminary investigations, the cult of Death in Mexico only dates back to the 1960’s, if not a bit earlier. While skeletons have always been present in Mexican popular religious consciousness, the idea that one should pray to Death is a total novelty.  As a theological refutation of this, I have found this as a common response out of the mouths of even the most simple, devout Catholics:

Didn’t God defeat death? How can death be a saint? To me, that is no saint.

Exactly. We should pray for our misguided brethren.

El Mal de Ojo

14 05 2008

Useful tips on how to spot and get rid of the “Evil Eye”

(Okay, so you guys are going to think I’ve gone off the deep end on this one, but oh well, that’s what this page is for…)
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In Search of a Strange Orthodoxy

4 05 2008

A Personal Testament and an Invitation

I know that the few people who read this blog may be shocked and a bit disturbed by some of the things I post. If you have been a long-time reader, you have also probably read some of the more edifying things that I have written which were often very personal and devout. I have to say, however, that I don’t think that I will be writing a whole lot of that type of stuff any time soon for a couple of reasons. The first is because I think the medium of the Internet is your least likely source of spiritual nourishment. For that, you would be much better off turning off all your electrical appliances, locking yourself in a room, and praying. Or you can take a walk with your rosary in the early morning, or a hike in the wilderness by yourself or with a few intimate friends. Reading this blog will NOT bring you closer to God, though I would hope that a thing or two that you read here might help you along the way. And the Lord knows that I have my own problems, but I’m not going to share them with you.
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El futuro que se acerca y el pasado que nos hechiza – segunda parte

1 05 2008

A visit to a botanica, a charismatic prayer meeting, and a stuffy Latin Mass

I stumbled across an article in the conservative Catholic newspaper, Los Angeles Lay Catholic Mission entitled, I Don’t Do Black Magic: The Mysterious World of Botanicas. For my Anglo readers, a botanica is a religious store that has its roots in Afro-Caribbean santeria that sells everything from pagan statues to Catholic holy cards. The article documents how the use of botanicas is on the rise among many Latino Catholics in this country. One can say that this is due simply to the fact that Latinos tend to be more superstitious than their Anglo neighbors (one only need to watch Mexican television for twenty minutes to find that out). However, the diagnosis of one expert was particularily enlightening in terms of what I have been thinking about recently viz a viz the changes in the Church in the last fifty years.

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