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At the Shrine to San Malverde, Mexico's Narco-Saint

You don't find Culiacan, the capital city of Sinaloa, in the tourist guide books for some reason. But it is a thriving city of more than a million, and it is the home of one of the stranger manifestations of the drug wars of the last few decades: The shrine to San Malverde, (unofficial) patron saint of bandits, and now, drug traffickers. shrine to San Malverde, patron saint of the narcos (and others), Culiacan, Sinaloa -- plaque thanking God, the Virgin of Guadalupe, and San Malverde for keeping the roads cleans -- from "the indigenous people from Angostura to Arizona" (more pictures below the fold) I visited the shine in the heat of the afternoon sun today. During the half hour or so I was there, a few dozen people came to light candles to the santo, pay their respects, or otherwise recognize his alleged powers of protection. A handful of musicians for hire hung around, waiting for someone to pay them to play a tune to the saint, and about a dozen vendors sold San Malverde memorabilia--candles, plaques, good luck amulets, prayer cards, and the like. (Hmmm, do I feel an idea for a premium gestating?) The vendors told me that dozens, sometimes hundreds, of people arrive each day, some to pray, some to light candles, some to make donations, some to put up plaques:
"Thanks to God and San Malverde for favors received." "Thanks to God, the Virgin of Guadalupe, and San Malverde for helping us move forward." "O miraculous Malverde, O, Malverde my Lord, Concede me this favor, And fill my heart with happiness."
Given the way Mexico's drug war is raging these days, I would imagine the good saint is getting a real work-out. Mexicans are so inured to the daily drug war death toll that the newspapers generally relegate it to box score-type accounts, but when you or a friend or a family member is working in the trade, you probably figure some supernatural help can't hurt. I'll spend the next few days here in Culiacan. I had wanted to go up to the drug-producing areas in the mountains nearby, but so far, everyone is demurring--it's too dangerous, they say. Nonetheless, I'll keep working that and see what happens. On Tuesday and Wednesday, I'll be attending and "International Forum on Illicit Drugs: The Merida Initiative and the Experiences of Decriminalization," organized by the brave journalists of the Culiacan news weekly Riodoce. While the other Sinaloa papers have largely gone silent in the face of threats and killings, Riodoce keeps plugging away. I'll be meeting with some of the Riodoce staff tomorrow, right after I meet with Mercedes Murillo, head of the local human rights organization the Sinaloa Civic Front, which just a couple of days ago filed what could be a historic court motion to have military personnel accused of crimes against civilians tried in civilian--not military--court. There have been several nasty incidents of soldiers killing civilians here since Calderon sent in the troops, and under current Mexican law, they seem to get away with it. Stay tuned. It should be an interesting week. And then it's back to Mexico City to visit Saint Death and attend the Global Marijuana Day demonstration at the Alameda. (more pictures below the fold) shrine of San Malverde, more plaques Musicians for hire -- they play for people making pilgrimages or offerings. the cathedral in Culiacan
Culiacan, SIN
Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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Jimi Devine's picture


With so many Americans moving away from their faith it is interesting to see how connected it is with the war on drugs south of the border.

Mr. smith congratulations

Mr; Smith
Sinaloa is not to bad, You really have the real picture of Sinaloa, speak with Mercedes Esquer de Murillo will be the best part of everything, she is the rigth person, Really surprise me, that in all these years telling the truth in the face to powerfull people, she is alive, If only a 1/3 of sinaloa try it, to be like her, let me tell you, sinaloa will be the little virginia en EEUU.

Watch your back

Americans are premium grade kidnap targets in Mexico.I know this won't come as news to you but You have more nerve than I do.I wouldn't mess around in a war zone no matter how good the dope is.Watch who you trust down there.Great job reporting though.I'm amazed this story doesn't get much press but then it sure doesn't forward the current administrations outlook on the drug issue.I wonder how the carnage measures up with what's going on on the streets of America?I think we've had 17 gang hits in Vancouver and Seattle did a story on the 14 there.It isn't 4000 but the numbers tend to blur together as the years go by.Strange how people just don't make the connection to alcohol prohibition.Look at what's left from that mess.I wonder how many political dynasty's are being made in the drug war?


Sinaloa is a place of wonders and great adventures. You have to be able to KNOW how you hang out with what are there true background. All it takes is one simple mistake and you will and up paying it with your LIFE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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