Kristín Guðrún Jónsdóttir

Iconography of a folk saint. A case study from Mexico

The bust of Jesús Malverde, the sanctified bandit from Mexico, is in many ways special due to his peculiar looks, considering traditional saintly figures. He is most often portrayed as a dark-haired man in a cowboy shirt, with bushy eyebrows and a mustache, and resembles in many ways other contemporary men from Sinaloa, his native state in northwestern Mexico. This paper will focus on the image of the folk saint, and how it has developed in the past years, especially after Malverde became the patron saint of drug smugglers. The original bust of Jesús Malverde, which is located in his chapel in Culiacán, Sinaloa, shows him as a sorrowful figure. However, many replicas have been made of the original. The saint ́s image has gone through several transformations and has ended as a “kitsch” figure in modern globalized culture. The paper will, moreover, examine how the saint has entered the sphere of popular culture making him visible now in the most unexpected places, both sacred and profane.