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Women killed inside ‘Santa Muerte’ shrine in Mexico

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Oaxaca police claim the women were shot, call the killings inside the Temple of the Holy Death ‘feminicides’

EL PASO, TX (Border report) – Police in Oaxaca, Mexico are investigating a deadly attack on three women inside a shrine dedicated to the Santa Muerte – an icon often revered by drug dealers.

Wednesday’s attack in the town of Ejutla claimed the lives of two women aged 42 and 53 and left a 39-year-old woman with gunshot wounds to her arm, Mexican media reported. The Oaxaca attorney general’s office said it was investigate deaths as femicides.

According to news reports citing eyewitness accounts, a group of men arrived in a gray car at the Las Casitas neighborhood shrine and fired at least 20 shots at the women. Police would have recovered cartridge cases from a 9mm pistol, an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle and a shotgun. Local authorities identified the deceased as Agustina BB and Salome SM. The latter has been identified as the guardian of the sanctuary.

No arrests were reported Thursday afternoon.

Death is a popular folk figure in Mexican culture and is part of the tradition of holidays like the Day of the Dead. Small shrines and shops with candles and miniature renditions of Santa Muerte (Holy Death) can be found not only in Mexico but in some American cities as well.

In this February 13, 2013, file photo, statues of La Santa Muerte, an underworld saint recently associated with Mexico’s violent drug trade, are displayed at the Masks y Mas art store in Albuquerque, NM Santa Fe Archbishop John Wester recently said The Associated Press believes some Catholics can be fooled into worshiping Santa Muerte, even though the emphasis on death goes against church teachings and is not a official Catholic saint. (AP Photo/Russell Contreras, File)

“Santa Muerte has often been misrepresented by the US media and law enforcement as a narco-saint, that is, a saint worshiped only by narco-traffickers,” said an article from September 2020 at the National Institute of Health, explaining how some in Latin America have sought protection from the “saint” against COVID-19. “The Holy Death has long been focused on health and healing by its devotees…”

Four major drug cartels operate in Oaxaca; they include the Beltran Leyva Organization, the Old School of Zetas, the Northeast Cartel and the New Generation Jalisco Cartel, according to a briefing 2020 by the intelligence unit of the Mexican Treasury Department.