|Preach to the choir|
|Crux of the matter|
|Speak of the devil|
|An act of faith|
Jesús Malverde (lit. "Jesús Bad-green"; also El Narcosantón or the Narcosaint) is a great example of how mythical, fictional people can emerge from real history and people. Malverde is, depending on who's asked, an angel of the poor, the patron saint for drug dealers, or a legendary but nonexistent hero.
There's very little evidence Malverde existed.
Malverde's life has many, varied, and contradictory paths, all of which share in compassion for the poor. Kinda like some other guy.
Malverde was born on 24 December 1870 as "Jesús Juarez Mazo" near Morocito. His nickname "Malverde" (bad-green) was given by his wealthy victims, deriving from an association between the color green and misfortune.
At first, Malverde was employed as (pick one):
The 1870s were, for Sinaloa, Mexico, a period of industrialization and great inequality. The rich made even more money; the poor were just as bad or even worse off. Policing was corrupt, as ever, and legitimate ways to advance in the world were few.
Malverde began a life of crime after his parents (pick one):
Pissing off the governor
At some time, Malverde (pick applicable):
- (while a construction worker) slipped into the governor's mansion, stole his sword, and wrote "Jesus M. was here." on a wall, before escaping unscathed.
- (while a bandit) was promised a full pardon by the governor, Francisco Cañedo if he could steal his sword; Malverde did so. The governor promptly had Malverde hanged.
- (while a bandit) was promised a full pardon by the governor if he could steal his daughter; Malverde did so.
Malverde was successful until he was (pick one):
- betrayed by a friend
- betrayed by a friend, who cut off his feet and dragged him to the police to collect a 10,000 peso reward.
- betrayed by a friend and shot to death; his betrayer died 3 days later, and the governor died 33 days later from a cold.
- shot in the leg with a bow and arrow by rural police; dying of gangrene, he told his friend to turn him for the reward, and his friend dutifully followed through.
- caught by police and hanged by the governor.
- caught by police and hanged by the governor; the governor let the body sit there until its bones fell onto the ground. His body would be buried over years as peasants threw stones onto his bones, covering them.
“”People say Malverde helped me do this or that; mostly it’s people into drugs who think he'll shield them from the police. It’s the power of the mind, you know. They believe it, so they take chances and get away with it, but they will eventually get caught.
“”We send squads out to local hotel and motel parking lots looking for cars with Malverde symbols on the windshield or hanging from the rearview mirror. It gives us a clue that something is probably going on.
|—Sgt. Rico Garcia, Houston Police Department, narcotics division|
Malverde's shrine, in the drug-cartel-heavy city of Culiacán, maintains a constant stream of visitors (many from hours away) bringing candles, photographs of loved ones, and music, each hoping for his supernatural assistance. There, worshipers rub concrete busts of his face and buy ballads written to him.
Malverde's miracles include (pick applicable):
- healing the blind and crippled
- "His first miracle was for a friend who lost some mules loaded with gold and silver. He asked the bones of Malverde, which were still hanging from the tree, to find his mules again. He found them."
- returning lost cattle (potentially after petition by prayer)
- returning lost property
- saving a drowning man[note 1]
- returning a stack of important legal documents, after petitioning by prayer
- getting people safely into the U.S.
- keeping the police away from illegal activity
- tipping the police off to illegal activity
They say all of Culiacán turned out to see the demolition of the pile of pebbles that supposedly marked the place where Malverde was buried. They say, too, that the pebbles began to jump like popcorn and that the bulldozer operator had to get drunk to have the guts to roll over it, and that finally, the machine broke down when it touched the grave.
In reality, no such bulldozing was ever attempted:
José Carlos Aguilar, the lot's owner, says he wants to build a high-rise hotel or office building on the sight, but hasn't been able to find funding or a suitable partner. Still, if he did build on the site, Aguilar says he'd leave aside a corner of the building, or maybe a section of the hotel lobby, for the bandit's tomb. "You can't be inflaming people's sensibilities," he says.
Furthermore, in the original days, when Malverde's gravesite was merely a pile of pebbles, throwing a pebble onto the pile was said to grant the right to petition him for assistance.
Why Malverde is important
Martyrs prove Jesus was a god!
Maybe because people get emotional about stuff like this:
Every third night Florentino Ventura can be found sleeping outdoors, guarding the large blue shrine that honors the belief in a lawless man. His faith keeps him there. … He'd been on track for what would have been at least a minor political career. He had been a PRI youth leader and won a scholarship to study political science in Mexico City. He was taking a break from studying law when the diving accident happened. But he gave it all up and, now 36, he's been here ever since. "The Mexican political system is useless. It was false, pure lies," he says. Florentino found more truth in Malverde.
"Thanks to God and Malverde there's something for everyone," [Eligio Gonzalez, "The Apostle of Malverde"] says. "Not much, but something. Little by little we've built this. Before it was just tiny. People have put in a lot of faith. If there's no faith, there are no miracles."
God has appeared to me!
Some people point to personal theistic experiences as proof of god. Yet such experiences also prove Mr. Malverde:
The summer when Florentino was 23, he was working as an oyster diver in Mazatlan. One day he became tangled in his rope underwater. He wrestled with the cord and began to drown. Then suddenly the face of the bandit Jesus Malverde appeared to him. Florentino finally freed himself. He rose to the surface and came immediately to Malverde's shrine to give thanks. From the way Florentino describes it, the experience led to the kind of spiritual catharsis that makes people change their lives.
Surely if Jesus's miracles prove Jesus, then Malverde's miracles prove Malverde?
And Ganesha's miracles prove Ganesha?
Corruption of the true religion
Malverde worship, even though it's less than a century old, has
been corrupted shifted significantly. For example, the shrine in Culiacán is quite different from that in Mexico City's Colonia Doctores district, below:
[A] younger woman, dressed in black, flashes out of a doorway. She balances two fake skulls in her right hand and clasps a skull-topped walking stick in her left. It's 7:55 p.m. in Colonia Doctores — time to pay homage to Jesús Malverde, the patron saint of Mexico's narco-traffickers. … [M]ore than two dozen worshipers gather, some drifting away from Pulido's sidewalk kitchen to kneel before the shrine her family built. It stands more than 10 feet tall, a glass box the size of a large outhouse. Lantern-style lights illuminate the life-size statues inside. Worshipers gaze on the plastic portrayals of Malverde, a blue bandanna peeking out from beneath a cowboy hat jauntily perched on his head, and La Santísima Muerte, the skeletal patron saint of death.
The Mexican religious traditions surrounding La Santísima Muerte and Malverde have become intertwined. It's not hard to imagine such a thing occurring elsewhere.
Whitewashing drug trafficking
People have also managed to use
Jesus Jesús for their ends, especially narcotraffickers. Patrica Price:
Narcotrafickers have strategically used Malverde's image as a 'generous bandit' to spin their images as Robin Hoods of sorts, merely stealing from rich drug-addicted gringos and giving some of their wealth back to their Sinaloa hometowns, in the form of schools, road improvements, community celebrations.
(Lack of) evidence of existence
- Bernal was a thief from southern Sinaloa who became an anti-government rebel. The governor offered a reward for his capture; he was betrayed and killed by former colleagues.
- Bachomo was an indigenous Indian rebel from northern Sinaloa who was captured and executed.
Interestingly, both Bernal and Bachomo contain elements of different stories of Malverde's life.
- See the Wikipedia article on Jesús Malverde.
- Corridos de Jesús Malverde (Spanish ballad to Malverde)
- "Without God or Law: Narcoculture and belief in Jesús Malverde." James H. Creechan and Jorge de la Herran-Garcia. 2005. Religious Studies and Theology 24:53.
- Esquivel, Manuel; Jesús Malverde" (Jus Ed., Mexico, 2008) ISBN 978-607-412-010-3
- Probably Mr. Ventura below.
- Patricia L. Price, Dry Place: Landscapes of Belonging and Exclusion, pp.153-157.
- Quinones, Sam, True Tales from Another Mexico: The Lynch Mob, the Popsicle Kings, Chalino, and the Bronx, UNM Press, 2001, p.227