Strange case of serial murder in Argentina

You want more creepy? You got it:

A young man of 22 was arrested last weekend in Buenos Aires, accused of killing six persons in four weeks to fulfill a promise to “San La Muerte” (St. Death), a “saint” venerated in prisons and rural parts of Argentina, according to a police source on Tuesday.

“The killer made a pact with ‘St. Death’, in which he promised a death a week in exchange for the protection of his family,” said the source.

Marcelo Antelo was arrested on Saturday, August 28, accused of having killed a philosophy student, 27 years old, who was found with a bullet wound to the chest in the Buenos Aires neighborhood of Flores, south of the Argentine capital, near the accused killer’s home.

Upon his arrest after an intense gunfight, the police confiscated a .38 calibre pistol, similar to those used by federal police officers.

At the moment, “Marcelito”, as he was known in the barrio, is in custody for the murder of the philosophy student, but the police suspect that he may be the killer of five others, including a double homicide on August 15, five days before he celebrated the day of “St. Death”.

“A half-dozen witnesses have already come forward. One of them gave us details of the pact with ‘St. Death’,” said an investigator in the case.

“St. Death” is a traditional figure of folk worship in the rural northeast of Argentina, particularly in the provinces of Corrientes, Chaco, and Formosa, and is also venerated in many prisons. His devotees invoke him for ordinary favors, such as to protect a harvest, but he is also sometimes called upon to bring death to an enemy.

In routine raids on the homes of suspects, the police have often found the image of “St. Death”, in the form of a tiny human skeleton.

Translation mine.

The veneration of “St. Death” under various names (La Muerte, La Santa Muerte, San La Muerte, etc.) is not limited to Argentina. Mexicans, too, are known for their veneration of the unorthodox “saint”, particularly on the Day of the Dead. He (or sometimes, she) is commonly invoked by members of crime gangs, for fairly obvious reasons. When even St. Jude, the patron of lost causes, won’t do, St. Death seems the natural choice for drug-dealers locked in endless turf wars, or battles with the police (or both, simultaneously).

Of course, invoking Death brings karma down on you like a duck on a junebug, as this one unlucky Argentine found out. The elaborate tombs of Mexican drug-gangsters are also testimony to how well the double-edged sword of “St.” Death can slice. Just something to consider, if ever you’re tempted to make a pact with Death.

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3 Responses to Strange case of serial murder in Argentina

  1. Richard says:

    I have never heard of Argentine San Muerte, but I think you’re confusing Santa Muerte’s reality with the propaganda put out by the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy, which has influenced the sense among PANistas that Santa Muerte is somehow related to narcotics dealers.
    In that it is a religion that is more tolerant of, and even embraces, the “fallen nature of man” it is a religion of choice among more marginalized URBAN Mexicans (including policemen).
    Santa Muerte devotees are hardly “worshipping death”, but are praying for a “good death” and accepting of death as part of the natural cycle of existence. Which is what “Day of the Dead” is all about, so naturally, it’s a holiday for both conventional Roman Catholics and Santa Muertes.
    I was involved in setting up a wholesale fruit export business, where many of our business clients were Santa Muertes (market vendors and truck drivers are also among those attracted to this manifestation of syncretic Catholic-Indigenous beliefs) and kept a Santa Muerte shrine in my office. It certainly was not a sign of being in the narcotics trade, nor of being a violent person.

  2. Simon says:

    hi Bina…I see that the San La Muerte cult is assumed to have arisen among the Guarani
    tribes after the expulsion of the Jesuits in 1767. But as for how it made it into the prisons of Argentina I can only explain that in good Porteño. Che viejo, que te dije? El campo es el campo, y la religion es una mierda. 😉
    P.S. thanks for the video of that Teabagger rally. I’ll be saving it for use later… 🙂

  3. De nada, Simon. And seeing as the Guaraní live across the Paraná river from northern Argentina, maybe it’s not such a mystery as to how their strange saint got into the provinces there, after all. And seeing how a lot of dispossessed campesinos got into the city barrios, it’s not so surprising that they landed in Buenos Aires, either. Gosh this is fascinating, this local history of cults…

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