HomeNewsBriefMexico, Colombia Drug Raids Reveal Human Skulls, Saints, and Spells
BRIEF

Mexico, Colombia Drug Raids Reveal Human Skulls, Saints, and Spells

COLOMBIA / 1 NOV 2019 BY LARA LOAIZA EN

An altar laden with human skulls and bones was used by a powerful Mexico City gang in the worship of Santa Muerte, a death cult that has drug trade devotees.

The macabre scene was encountered during an October 22 police raid on properties belonging to members of the La Unión Tepito gang. Guns and drugs were also seized in the raid and 31 people were arrested.

The skeletal remains on the altar included arm, leg, and jaw bones and about 40 adult skulls, some of which showed signs of gunshots, according to authorities. Police officials said that DNA tests will be conducted on the remains and compared against results in Mexico’s missing persons database, El Universal reported.

SEE ALSO: Mexico News and Profiles

Mexico City Security Secretary Omar García Harfuch said neighbors told police that the altar was used in satanic rituals. In addition to the remains, police found a fetus in a jar, religious images, and knives, he said. A separate altar held 15 busts of Jesus Malvede, a saint-like figure among narcos, surrounded by photos of dead gang members.

The altars were meant “to open the way for the group” in all their actions, Garcia Harfuch said.

Meanwhile in Colombia, a handwritten book of spells to protect members of the Urabeños crime group was discovered during a September military operation against the gang in the northwestern Chocó department, El Colombiano reported.  Scrawled in its thirteen pages were spells divided into 11 categories, including incantations for the jailed, which invoked higher powers to open doors, chains, bars and handcuffs.

There were also spells to heal snake bites, stop hemorrhages and cure pains. A passage called the “secret of Samson” was meant to invoke the famous Biblical strongman to fight enemies, wildcats and evil men.

InSight Crime Analysis

While it is not uncommon for drug gangs to appeal to saints or saint-like figures and perform rituals, these recent discoveries show that beliefs and practices combining the black magic with Catholicism are still deep seated in Latin American narco-culture.

In Mexico, for example, drug lords have long adhered to the cult of Santa Muerte. Unrecognized by the Vatican, the figure of the saint is often seen shrouded in white with a grinning skull. For believers, she heals, enriches, and acts as an agent of vengeance.

SEE ALSO: Inside a Mass for Mexico’s Santa Muerte

Meanwhile, Jesus Malverde, a folk saint who may have been a bandit in 19th century Mexico, is known as the patron of drug dealers. Malverde -- mustachioed and dressed in black trousers and a traditional cream-colored collared shirt -- is seen as a Robin Hood figure, a beaten-down thief who steals to give to the poor.  According to legend, when was fatally shot and knew he he was to die, he told his accomplices to turn him in to authorities and collect the bounty, then share it with the poor.

Malverde has a chapel dedicated to him in Culiacán, a city in the state of Sinaloa, also the eponymous cartel’s home. Kingpin Joaquín Guzmán Loera, also known as “El Chapo,” is said to have visited, and other famous traffickers like Rafael Caro Quintero have also allegedly passed through to ask for protection.

In Colombia, the Urabeños crime group has been linked to occult practices. Its second-in-command, Roberto Vargas, alias “Gavilán,” was shot dead in a police operation in 2014. He carried two dried hawk’s claws -- prepared by a witch to turn him invisible.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

FENTANYL / 22 NOV 2022

Authorities in the United States have sanctioned a Mexican criminal group for trafficking illicit fentanyl into the country.

COLOMBIA / 18 JUN 2021

Colombia's hippos are a well-documented problem. Growing astonishingly fast in number, potentially devastating to the local ecosystem and perhaps lethal…

ECUADOR / 16 NOV 2021

After yet another prison massacre, Ecuadorean authorities have doubled down on Mexico’s two biggest cartels being behind gang warfare in…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Escaping Barrio 18

27 JAN 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published an investigation charting the story of Desafío, a 28-year-old Barrio 18 gang member who is desperate to escape gang life. But there’s one problem: he’s…

THE ORGANIZATION

Europe Coverage Makes a Splash

20 JAN 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published an analysis of the role of Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport as an arrival hub for cocaine and methamphetamine from Mexico.  The article was picked up by…

THE ORGANIZATION

World Looks to InSight Crime for Mexico Expertise

13 JAN 2023

Our coverage of the arrest of Chapitos’ co-founder Ovidio Guzmán López in Mexico has received worldwide attention.In the UK, outlets including The Independent and BBC…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Shares Expertise with US State Department

16 DEC 2022

Last week, InSight Crime Co-founder Steven Dudley took part in the International Anti-Corruption Conference organized by the US State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, & Labor and…

THE ORGANIZATION

Immediate Response to US-Mexico Marijuana Investigation

9 DEC 2022

InSight Crime’s investigation into how the legalization of marijuana in many US states has changed Mexico’s criminal dynamics made a splash this week appearing on the front page of…