Texas Folklife is releasing a short documentary that explores the popularity of “La Santa Muerte” (“Saint Death” or “Holy Death”). Texas is one of the epicenters of devotion to La Santa Muerte, a controversial Mexican folk saint who personifies death. Through the perspectives of devotees, scholars, the media and members of the clergy, “La Santa Muerte: A Folk Saint in Texas” explores the rising presence of Santa Muerte in communities across Texas; from its controversial significance as a folk saint, to its condemnation by the Catholic Church, the impact it has on religious freedom and the place it holds among forbidden female deities.
The film features Dr. Andrew Chesnut a leading religious studies scholar and author of the first monograph on the subject; Dr. Malgorzata Oleszkiewicz-Peralba; Jungian analyst Dr. Priscilla Murr; Santa Muerte devotee and folk healer Marisela Guevara; Reverend Michael D. Pfeifer OMI, Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of San Angelo; and interviews with vendors of Santa Muerte devotional objects.
Film screenings and panel discussions will be held throughout the fall in Texas and Virginia. The film premiere will be a showing in Austin at Santa Cruz Theater on Tuesday, October 3, featuring a panel discussion with scholar Andrew Chesnut and filmmakers.
“We are very proud to announce the release of this documentary short about La Santa Muerte,” said Texas Folklife Executive Director Charlie Lockwood. “It has taken several years to bring this project to fruition and we are extremely happy with the result. The film tackles an interesting and fascinating cultural phenomenon and tries to get at the underlying reasons for its emergence in today’s world, and its meaning in Texas. In order to explore la Santa Muerte we have brought together scholars, psychologists, religious leaders, and faith healers to help us better understand this folk spiritual practice, its following, and its emergent popularity. We invite you to try and catch one of the screenings this fall.”