La Santa Muerte as a Site of Encounter Between the Licit and Illicit; A Religious Perspective in Border Studies.

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The Mexican folk saint La Santa Muerte is one of the most popular saints in both Mexico and the United States today. She has devotees from different social, political and economic backgrounds. Santa Muerte is thus a religious phenomenon that transcends borders. As a religious perspective in border studies is unfortunately still fairly unexplored, it is meaningful to have a look at this topic. Therefore, this thesis aims to offer a first attempt of a religious perspective in the interdisciplinary field of border studies using an in-depth case study. This case study aims to demonstrate the importance and relevance of such a perspective in border studies. The case study used to research this is a thorough analysis of Santa Muerte as a site of encounter between: 1) the licit and illicit Santa Muertistas in Mexico, 2) the orthodox Catholic Church and the heterodox Santa Muertistas, and 3) the legal and illegal Santa Muertistas and law enforcement agencies in the U.S.-Mexico border region and the United States in general. This analysis will be placed in the body of work on border studies. It is argued that Santa Muerte is a religious phenomenon that transcends borders in multiple ways. On top of that, this thesis will demonstrate that Santa Muerte carries the U.S.-Mexico borderland with her when she crosses the U.S.-Mexico border through the Mexican drug cartels and immigrants. In turn, this thesis emphasizes the need of cooperation between Mexico and the United States regarding border enforcement.
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