Jesús Malverde Chapel – Culiacán

Mexicans will sometimes adopt folk heroes, and raise them to near-saint status. They are not saints recognized by the church, but some people pray to them as if they were. Jesús Malverde is a well-known example from the Sinaloa area. I first became aware of him, and his Culiacán shrine, from Arturo Perez Reverte’s novel La Reina del Sur, which was virtually an homage to Sinaloan writer Elmer Mendoza.

Sinaloa is the historic center of the Mexican drug trade, and Malverde has become especially popular among traffickers and traders in the area. The walls of the chapel are covered with prayers for future transactions, and thanks for the success of previous endeavors.

I visited the Malverde chapel on my recent visit to Culiacán, and here are some of the photos I took. I’m also including a picture of a Malverde statue that I took through a store window in Los Angeles. Appropriately, he is holding a big bag of marijuana, and a fist full of dollars.

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Here’s what Wikipedia says:

Jesús Malverde, sometimes known as the “generous bandit”, “angel of the poor”,[1] or the “narco-saint”, is a folklore hero in the Mexican state of Sinaloa. He is celebrated as a folk saint by some in Mexico and the United States, particularly among those involved in drug trafficking.[2] He is not recognized as a saint by the Roman Catholic Church.

The existence of Malverde a.k.a. ‘El Rey de Sinaloa’ is not historically verified,[3] but according to local legends he was a bandit killed by the authorities on May 3, 1909. Accounts of his life vary – sometimes he was a railway worker, while others claim he was a construction worker. There is also no agreement on the way he died, being hanged or shot.

Since Malverde’s supposed death, he has earned a Robin Hood-type image, making him popular among Sinaloa’s poor highland residents. The outlaw image has caused him to be adopted as the “patron saint” of the region’s illegal drug trade, and the press have thus dubbed him “the narco-saint.”[4] However, his intercession is also sought by those with troubles of various kinds, and a number of supposed miracles have been locally attributed to him, including personal healings and blessings.

A series of three Spanish-language films have been released under the titles Jesus Malverde, Jesus Malverde II: La Mafia de Sinaloa, and Jesus Malverde III: Infierno en Los Angeles. They all feature tales of contemporary Mexican drug trafficking into California, with strong musical interludes during which the gangsters are shown at home being serenaded by Sinaloan accordion-led Norteño bands singing narcocorridos.

Spiritual supplies featuring the visage of Jesús Malverde are available in the United States as well as in Mexico. They include candles, anointing oils, incense, sachet powders, bath crystals, soap and lithographed prints suitable for framing.

“Always & Forever” is a dramatic stageplay that features Malverde as a prominent character. The play examines various aspects of Mexican-American culture, such as quinceañeras, banda music, and premiered in April 2007 at the Watts Village Theater Company in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles. A revival production opened in May 2009 at Casa 0101 Theatre in another Los Angeles neighborhood, Boyle Heights.

A brewery in Guadalajara introduced a new beer, named Malverde, into the Northern Mexico market in late 2007.[5]
A Malverde bust is featured in AMC’s Breaking Bad television series, in the episode entitled “Negro Y Azul”.
A popular Mexican hip-hop artist performs under the pseudonym Jesús Malverde.
Several important scenes of the telenovela La Reina del Sur take place at his chapel in Culiacán and Malverde’s name is mentioned many times during the show.

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