Rolling Circle Press

Mill Valley, California

Santa Muerte death cult

. . . a psychic’s studio with a sign: “Santa Muerte; Consejeria Espiritual y Sentimental; Exorcismos . . .” Inside the space behind a pane of glass, like the viewing window of a hearse, stood a skeleton in a wedding dress, a veil thinly covering the skull, the gown low-cut over the ribcage, and falling from the hips a short-hemmed Confirmation dress strangely resembling a “naughty nurse” outfit. The effigy stood on a dais looking out at the citizens of the barrio from bottomless eye sockets, a rictus grin leering from the fleshless jaw. In one hand she held a skull, in the other a scythe with filigree engraved on its blade. A pace or two behind her was a half-size mannikin caballero smoking a puro. It was a tomb sculpture animated by the gleeful idea that death was fiesta and liberation, promising happiness and fulfillment, and that the half-alive smokey unawareness of the now would expand beyond the grave into a fully realized something more in the to-be.