Santa Muerte - literally "Holy Death" or "Saint Death" - is the sacred figure of death personified as a woman. She is venerated by an ever growing number of people in Mexico and beyond, and is especially popular with disenfranchised members of society such as criminals, prostitutes, transvestites, homosexuals, prisoners, the very poor, and other people for whom conventional Catholicism has not provided a better or a safer life. The phenomenon is thought to have its roots in a syncretism of the beliefs of the native Latin Americans and the colonizing Spanish Catholics.

The pictures above are from Santa Muerte shrine in Tultitlan, Mexico. Founded in 2007 by Jonathan Legaria Vargas (aka "Comandante Pantera"), the shrine - marked by a 75 foot tall figure of "The Skinny Lady" - consists of a series of small pavilions devoted to Santa Muertes wearing different colored gowns, and thus bearing different powers. Red, for example, is love; gold is money; and black is protection. Each pavilion is stuffed with candles, drawings, flowers, stuffed animals, liquor, cigarettes, incense and other offerings; one pavilion is even devoted to healing broken Santa Muertes. In 2008, "Comandante Pantera" was killed by gunfire. Since then, the shrine has been lovingly run by his mother, Enriqueta Vargas. In a very touching way, this shrine to Saint Death also seems to act as a memorial for her lost son.

Originally published on the Morbid Anatomy website, where you can read the full article.