Mexico's Gruesome Icon
DEVOTED TO DEATH:
Santa Muerte, the Skeleton Saint.
By R. Andrew Chesnut.
Oxford Univ. Press. 221 pp. $24.95
In 1998, on a staticky television in a small Oaxaca town, I watched Mexico’s most famous newscaster interview one of the country’s most famous criminals. Daniel Arizmendi López, known as El Mochaorejas—the “ear chopper”—had granted an interview to Televisa after his arrest. The bland discussion of his gruesome crimes repelled me, yet I could not turn away from Arizmendi’s flat stare. He had kidnapped dozens of people. Occasionally, he murdered them. More often, he severed a victim’s ear with poultry scissors and mailed it to the family. The practice had earned him millions in ransom payments, but finally it earned him a 50-year prison sentence. During a long surge in violent crime triggered by Mexico’s 1994 economic crisis, Arizmendi’s arrest came as a national relief, symbolizing some small degree of official control amid spiraling insecurity.
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Wendy Call is the author of No Word for Welcome: The Mexican Village Faces the Global Economy (2011) and is currently a distinguished visiting writer at Cornell College, Mount Vernon, Iowa.more from this author >>