Monday, May 9, 2011
My Santa Muerte Friend
I decided to visit a part of the city that I have not been to many times. This area is only about 5-10 minutes from my house and is a very impoverished area. As I drove through this neighborhood I noticed that there were a lot of people who varied in "wealth". Some were living in shacks where as others who either had more money or possibly more time to build (maybe both) had homes that were considerably nicer despite the fact that the area I was in was filled with dirt roads full of chug holes, trash and stray dogs. The wind was blowing pretty hard and being that I live in very semi-arid region south of the border the dust was terrible. After taking about 20 minutes to talk to a very kind gentleman and his wife who were in their late 50's, I drove to a tienda (a tienda is basically a house that has a room that sells sodas, candy, bread etc...) to buy a Coke. I picked this particular one because there was not any people around which would provide me more time to visit with the owner of the tienda so that I could ask questions and learn about that barrio.
I had not been inside more than a couple of minutes when I heard a derogatory word used to describe a white guy from the U.S. When I turned around there were three men at the front of the store. Not thinking too much about it nor being too worried about it I turned around and bought what I went in for and turned around to leave.
Because the lighting was not real good (many Mexican people do not use lights during the day time in order to save on their electric bill) when I saw the three men the first time, I was taken aback somewhat when I could see them a little more clearly as I was heading for the door. One of the men (about 35) had a pint bottle of beer in his hand and was clearly intoxicated. Another who appeared to be the youngest (maybe 20) had a black shirt with a bright green marijuana leaf on his shirt. The last, was the one who was concerning. He had a Santa Muerte tattoo on each of his arms as well as various other demonic tattoos and a scattering of Aztec tattoos. However, the tattoos were not what had shocked me since we have lived in both Vancouver, B.C. and Seattle. What had shocked me was the angry red and purple scar that went from one of his ears to the other. Someone had slit this young man's throat and some how, by the grace of God, he had survived.
Immediately I started asking this guy about his tattoos because I knew that he took great pride in them. He was NOT friendly at first at all. However, I persisted. He briefly answered a question when the drunk man started talking to me. He talked to me for several minutes about basically nothing.
As many of you know, I love to do "magic" tricks by making coins disappear as well as other silly little tricks. I can not remember what my bridge was in order to show the guys how I can "make" a coin go from one hand to another but the drunk guy said something that allowed me to show them the trick. The cool thing was, as it usually does, the guys relaxed and actually laughed and wanted me to do it again. I repeated the trick and showed them a few more that allowed me to ask deeper questions of these guys.
I found out what I already knew about Santa Muerte and why he had the tattoos. I also found out a little about his Aztec tattoos. Heck before I left, the guy had raised his wife beater so that I could see a tattoo on his stomach/chest, which lol I was not really that interested in seeing for obvious reasons.
The opportunity to tell the guys about how Levi (Matthew) had become a follower of Jesus and what his response was to Jesus calling him (banquet) came and as I told the story, you could see my friend with the tattoos was keenly listening. It seemed that the idea that Jesus would call someone of Levi's (Matthew's) character and then to eat with him was a revolutionary understanding of just who Jesus was/is.
Later, the drunk guy had to pull up his shirt and show me his eagle tattoo. He went on and on how the eagle represented freedom. I then asked him about that freedom and he told me that the eagle represented being set free from slavery. Soon after he wandered off and my tattoo friend asked me what freedom meant for me.
I happily shared that true freedom was being set free from one's sins and that God had set me free. I was free. Again, he paid close attention to what I said. I then handed him a tract and as he read it he would say, "This is good.", "Yes" and would look up and look me in the eye. Then he would go back to reading. When he had finished he tried to hand the tract back to me but I told him that it was for him. In a very humble manner he thanked me. He looked me in the eye and said in broken English, "Thank you. Thank you VERY much".