Santa Muerte: The Altar Becomes My Injection Site
Words by Monique Quintana
Photos by Patrick Fontes
Hands out, she doesn’t judge or balance scales. She listens and does what I ask her to do, not what she thinks is best for me. For this, I know to not take her lightly. But she is positive about death. She lets me know that my own death is inevitable and is coming soon.
She is an outlawed saint.
She’s skeletal and not recognized by the Catholic Church. I never wanted to be Catholic, but I find solace in ritual. If I could, I’d probably joint the Iglesia Santa Católica Apostólica Tradicional Mex-USA because they recognize Muerte and our more attuned to my leftist politics. To them, she is sacred and not to be shamed.
She doesn’t heed specific directions, because death is fluid and so, she is everywhere.
Altars to Muerte map the border like stars. Wives and children and drug lords and sex workers speak to her. And sometimes there are stars on the cloak that covers her head. Make an altar only for her. Take a textile and cover the base. My cover is thick red ribbon with gold glitter bits, wrapped around and around on a shelf, hooked in the wall of my bedroom. Her image should be there. My death’s face is on $1.99 candle from a box grocery store, a pool of thick black wax in a long skinny glass, like a needle. The altar becomes my injection site.
I burn sticks and cones and candles to her. There is petition in fire and smoke. I adore it when things smell like death. Not the actual dead body, but the things that are set on fire because the body is dead. Like beads of copal on a tiny disk of charcoal, smoke black like a saucer dressed in cheap meteor and light.
There is the tequila shot of love because agave burns and is a container of memories. A plant and a tool plowed by my ancestors. Small and dark and slanted eyed like me. To remind me of times I make contact with my Mexicaness, and I get burned in the throat.
A wand of black tourmaline. For protection from those that would cause me harm. For the demons I can’t see yet. The absence of color. The neutralizer. My cloak and my shoes and my dress and my lipstick.
Fresh flowers cut from my garden. Flowers hung and dried of its’ corpse and song. No pomp or circumstance is necessary. Plastic roses from carnivals lit up and battery blue. They’re all divine and garden, crushed up in her cup.
Photos by Dr. Patrick Fontes
Monique Quintana is a beauty, fashion, and wellness editor for Luna Luna. She is also a contributor at Clah Media and blogs at Razorhouse. Her work has appeared in Huizache, The Acentos Review, and Bordersenses, among other publications. Her work is forthcoming in Retell It Like It Is: Fairy Tales By People of Color by Alternating Currents Press and Tragedy Queens: Stories Inspired By Lana Del Rey and Sylvia Plath by CLASH Books.