Jesus Gonzales pours whiskey on a bust of Jesus Malverde as an offering and ritual during the procession at the anniversary celebrations of El Santo de los Narcos on May 3, 2016, in Culiacán, Sinaloa, in northwest Mexico. RNS photo by Jair Cabrera Torres

Worshipping the patron saint of drug traffickers in Mexico

CULIACAN, Mexico (RNS) Every year, thousands of people in Culiacan, headquarters of the Sinaloan drug cartel, turn out to venerate a legendary figure who is known as the patron saint of traffickers.

The Catholic Church does not recognize Jesus Malverde in its pantheon of saints. And while he is said to have been born in 1870 as Jesus Juarez Mazo and died in 1909, there are no documents to prove he existed.

Still, on Wednesday (May 3) men, women and children of all ages will march in a procession with a statue of the Robin Hood-like folk hero who is also known as the “Protector of the Narcos.”

With shouts and applause, they will supplicate him with requests for protection, courage and prosperity.

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Bundles of money, chains of gold, flowers and oil paintings are some of the tributes offered to Malverde, who draws devotees from afar, including many parts of Mexico as well as across the border from Los Angeles.

The accompanying photo essay shows images from last year's festival.

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  1. Worshipping the patron saint of drug traffickers in Mexico: Surreal – very surreal.

  2. As a Catholic Deacon, I find this totally bizarre. Where is the clergy to teach the people the errors of their ways? This reminds me of Santa Muerte, the saint of death, and Sanatoria – all idolatry. This is what happens when the people are not taught early on the precepts of the faith. What did this Jesus Malverde do anyway?

  3. I fully concur with my Catholic Deacon friend below: this is truly bizarre! I can’t imagine ANY religious group, Christian, Jewish or Islamic, lifting up those who enslave millions of people to drug use, and who cause poverty, death and terror to millions South of our border. This is a total sacrilige, and all missionairies should be aggressive in teaching that anything having to do with drugs is a deadly sin!

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