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Texas Folklife Presents La Santa Muerte: A Folk Saint in Texas

Thursday, September 28, 2017   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Rosalind V. Rini Larson
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Texas Folklife is releasing a short documentary that explores the popularity of “La Santa Muerte” (“Saint Death” or “Holy Death”). Texas is one of the epicenters of devotion to La Santa Muerte, a controversial Mexican folk saint who personifies death. Through the perspectives of devotees, scholars, the media, and members of the clergy, La Santa Muerte: A Folk Saint in Texas explores the rising presence of Santa Muerte in communities across Texas; from its controversial significance as a folk saint, to its condemnation by the Catholic Church, the impact it has on religious freedom and the place it holds among forbidden female deities.

The film features Andrew Chesnut PhD, leading religious studies scholar and author of the first monograph on the subject Devoted to Death: Santa Muerte, the Skeleton Saint; Malgorzata Oleszkiewicz-Peralba PhD, author of Fierce Feminine Divinities of Eurasia and Latin America: Baba Yaga, Kali, Pombagira, and Santa Muerte; Jungian analyst Priscilla Murr PhD; Santa Muerte devotee and folk healer Marisela Guevara; Reverend Michael D. Pfeifer OMI, Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of San Angelo; and interviews with vendors of Santa Muerte devotional objects.

A trailer for the film can be found at:

Film screenings and panel discussions will be held throughout the fall in Texas and Virginia. The film premiere will be a showing in Austin at Santa Cruz Theater on Tuesday, October 3, featuring a panel discussion with scholar Andrew Chesnut and filmmakers. There will also be a showing at the Guadalupe Theater in San Antonio on Thursday, October 5, also featuring a panel discussion with scholars Andrew Chesnut and Malgorzata Oleszkiewicz-Peralba. And during the week of October 31 there will be two screenings in Virginia: a screening and discussion with Andrew Chesnut and Texas Folklife Executive Director Charlie Lockwood at the Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, sponsored by the School of World Studies; and a screening at Virginia Wesleyan University in Virginia Beach, sponsored by the History Department and The Lighthouse: Center for Exploration & Discovery. More information about the screenings can be found at:

“We are very proud to announce the release of this documentary short about La Santa Muerte,” said Executive Director Charlie Lockwood. “It has taken several years to bring this project to fruition and we are extremely happy with the result. The film tackles an interesting and fascinating cultural phenomenon and tries to get at the underlying reasons for its emergence in today’s world, and its meaning in Texas. In order to explore la Santa Muerte we have brought together scholars, psychologists, religious leaders, and faith healers to help us better understand this folk spiritual practice, its following, and its emergent popularity. We invite you to try and catch one of the screenings this fall.”

This project is supported in part by Humanities Texas, the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, and The City of Austin Cultural Arts Division of the Economic Development Department. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this program do not necessarily reflect those of Humanities Texas and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Film Credits:
La Santa Muerte: A Folk Saint in Texas
2017, Documentary Short, 23 min. Color
Produced by Texas Folklife
Executive Producers: Charlie Lockwood and Cristina Ballí
Associate Producer: Eugenio del Bosque
Camera: Deborah Esquenazi, Eugenio del Bosque
Editing: Eugenio del Bosque
Sound: Deborah Esquenazi, Charlie Lockwood, Eugenio del Bosque


About Texas Folklife

Texas Folklife is a statewide non-profit organization dedicated to presenting and preserving the diverse cultures and living heritage of the Lone Star State. Since 1984, Texas Folklife has honored the cultural traditions passed down within communities, explored their importance in contemporary society, and celebrated them by providing accessible and joyful arts experiences.

1708 Houston St.
Austin, Texas 78756
T (512) 441-9255
F (844) 386-2091

Project information:,

Media information: Sheree Scarborough (512) 922-5483 /

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