“Santa Muerte” photo essay

On Jan Sochor’s website, I viewed the photo essay “Santa Muerte,” which takes place in Mexico. If you knew the minimal amount of Spanish, muerte means “death” and santa means “saint.” When initially viewing the photos, the images of death, skeletons, and tatoos convinced me that the habitants of this Mexican town were followers of a death cult, which was truly fascinating to me. It was frightening to see children participate in this parade, with many of them celebrating the “death festival.” The photos create a narrative of “death worshippers” who parade through the streets and elaborately dress skeletons, as if they were gods. Young men pay hommage by inking the image of the skeleton and his scythe on thier backs, while the women and children dance and make idols for decorations.

For this particular photo essay, in my opinion, it is imperative to read the text underneath. The interplay between the images and words is significant, since it is  a prime example of the additive combination. In a nutshell, the text explains and the context of images. Followers of “Santa Muerte” are not part of a death cult, but just followers of  a “syncretic fusion of Aztec death veneration rituals and Catholic beliefs.” Without such prior knowledge, one can easily infer that the people present in the photo essay are obsessed with the macabre, and they believe that Saint Death is the overlord of the universe. This is not the case, since followers of “Santa Muerte” are pious Catholics. Many of them worship idols of Jesus and La Niña Blanca (an epithet for Santa Muerte) simultaneously during prayer. All in all, it was interesting viewing this photo essay before and after gaining the background knowledge of the event being photographed.



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