Beginning of the Cult “The cult begins with Ismael, that was a thug (delinquent) who in his times robbed to which they had, to help to that they lived in its community”, comments Yamileth, salesman in a store of spiritual objects and devotee of Ismael. But this “santo” and his companions are looked for like guardians against the delinquency and the badness, in a country where weekly tens of people due to the high index of criminality die. “Not only they help us so that they are not going to us to rob, so that they protect the business, but also are organizations that can help the evolution, to obtain employment”, the young person says who participates in spiritualist sessions where she affirms have pronounced several members to him of the court. The believers maintain that the delinquent deceaseds look for to vindicate themselves moving away of the evil to those who walks in illicit activities. “Like him enough in that life of thug fodder that can help many to leave that world”, Mayra Marin said, an accountant of 43 years who does few months it knew the cult.
Unlike the cult to Maria Lionza (in whom the promises are pleased in candle dances - walking on live coals and put in risk the life as it happened with two people who passed away by incineration in mountains of Sorte, Yaracuy state, the past Easter Santa) in the Malandra Court the devotee one must offer to santo in gratefulness a wax candle of seven colors, a cigarette, a glass of anise or rum and a sauce song. The song appellant in the ceremonies of the Malandra Court is more “the Jail” of the Sexteto Youth, but also they accept meringues and the traditional santeras pieces like “Maria Lionza” of Rubén Blades. There are some request marijuana or bazuco, as well as white arms like chuzo or dagger of homemade manufacture. The dark statuettes of the holy thugs, Navies with revolvers, lenses, dresses with shirts and caps of the NBA, can be acquired in the esoteric stores by Versus. 6.000 (“mystical World” in Petare). Estampitas, necklaces with river basins of different colors and soaps also conform the iconography of this miraculous gang.
Saints not so holy
Original of the Lídice district of Caracas it died stabbed in a fight in parish 23 of January. According to it has said in some rituals, Saline the Guarataro districts and Pinto also was part of their territory. It is said that he was an inoffensive thief, it defended his zone of the incursion of other thugs and robbed
banks to distribute the booty between the needed neighbors more. In several occasions, it threatened to the owners of supplies and supermarkets while the poor men sacked the premises and fled loaded from foods.
Figure leader of the Malandra Court. Security is not had on its true origin but they tell that it belonged to a wealthy family and was violated to the 12 years of age. One married with a black man, of Windward, state Vantage point, that was to him unfaithful with a friend. For that reason it swore to take revenge itself of all the men. Its statuette cannot be in a santero altar that also has the figure of some black. It must ample be able to solve all class of problems.
It died of 132 shots (without telling bullets it that happened through the same hollow) during a frustrated attempt of robbery to a bank. Their accomplices (who believed their friendly) only left when arriving the police it. Jhonny: Boy of good family. He lived in an apartment that their parents bought to him in the Chaguaramos. Its sin went not to fulfill poor farmers to him who gave death him. One says that it is more the Pacific of the Court.
Elizabeth: Its stamp says: “Of strong personality and slim figure, Elizabeth radiates dominion and power. It invokes it at difficult moments and it will obtain a great support. Téngala with you in some visible place of its home. Ofréndele red candles”. She is not the same that appeared in television. Other saints are Crude Petroleum, Miguelito, Fat Fish, Luis Sanchez, Juan Hilario, Ramon, Freddy M (he is not known among others if its last name were Martinez or Machado), William, Yiyo, Jacobo, Antonio and the Mouse.
Many of the deities of the court malandra are delinquents who perished at the hands of the police or in confrontations with rival gang members between years 50 and 70. Nowadays they are considered héreos folkloric in the style of Robin Hood, who robbed to give the booty to the poor men and to protect to the quarters. “Ismael robbed, but to help to the most needed”, said Juan, a mechanic who bought candles in a store of santería of downtown. Juan says that he bought an image of Ismael, most popular of the maladros, after the spirit persuaded his son so that “he separated from the bad ways”. However, Márquez said that before the height of the criminality, those are few that see the delinquents of today with the same I pull ahead romantic of other times. “Among others things, the court malandra reflects nostalgia by the presumed thug of the past, dedicated to protect the district”, added.
“Candle, Tobacco, Anise and brave sauce…” The “girl”, a woman of 26 years who entered the cult after passing four months to the edge the death due to a bullet that crossed its head, is the one in charge of guarding by the offerings that are taken to the tombs of Ismael, thug Ratón and Isabelita in the General Cemetery of the South of Caracas. The scent enters flowers mixed with the smoke of the tobacco, the “girl” comments that during the three years that are been living within the cementery she has seen march past by the place from old to generals and commissioners of police. “People come to ask by boys who are imprisoned, with problems of conduct, drug addiction or because they walk in the criminal world, and also young girls come to ask because the husband beats to them”, explained. According to the devotee ones, any person can ask to the court and to pay the received favor. She only must ofrendar a wax candle of seven colors, a cigarette, a glass of anise and a sauce song to him very moved. The figures of the “saints” are now with more regularity in the stores of santería and between the traveling salesmen. By less than a dollar the muscular figures are obtained, Navies with revolvers and dressed in dark lenses, t-shirts of basketball and caps, that remember the image of the present raperos. “We are clear that is a plaster, an image, the devotion puts the person”, comments Yamileth, that affirms that in their store the images more and more are demanded.
Patron Saints of Venezuelan Gangland CrimePosted By: Alfonso DanielsWednesday December 3rd, 2008 IN VENEZUELA, thugs are worshipped as saints: but instead of lighting votive candles, followers light cigarettes and place them in the mouths of statues. Karina Perdomo, a lively 22-year-old woman dressed in a tight black shirt, stares blankly at the figure of a saint in the General Cemetery in southern Caracas, puffing on a cigar absent-mindedly. This saint's name is Ismael. He wears a baseball ADVERTISEMENT cap and dark glasses, smokes a cigarette and carries a gun. He is the king of the santos malandros or holy thugs, a group of popular saints who were petty criminals in life and were gunned down by the police in the 1960s and 1970s. Growing numbers of Venezuelans revere them, despite the fact they are not recognised by the church. It is an increasingly typical feature of Catholicism in Latin America, where religion is mixed with non-Christian figures and beliefs. The popularity of the dead hoodlums has soared since the rise in crime during the last decade and has become almost a trend in the past few years. "I come here since the death of my fiancé two years ago, he was shot in the lung by a guy who wanted to steal his motorbike," Karina says, fighting back her tears. "I waited nine months for justice to be made but nothing happened. So I came here devastated, and asked Ismael for the killer to be arrested, and two days later he was caught – it's a miracle. He means everything to me, protects me, my family, I come here at least once every month." As she speaks, a teenager arrives, and bends down to tap the stone grave to salute the saint,
carefully lighting a cigarette in the statue's mouth. The youngster's name is Johnny, and he has come here to ask Ismael to ensure he's not to be captured by the police. "He's my only hope, I'm alive thanks to him, I was shot 22 times," he says, lifting his T-shirt to show his scars. Ismael's real name was Francisco Carrillo and his grave was built 25 years ago. He is revered as a Robin Hood figure, stealing money from the rich to give to the poor. He shares the plot of land in the heart of the cemetery with other holy thugs, including Miguelito who belonged to Ismael's gang; Tomasito, whom legend has it was killed by 132 bullets; El Raton (The Mouse), Petroleo Crudo (Crude Oil), and the Malandra Isabelita. All saints "belong" to the entourage of Maria Lionza, the fertility goddess whose massive statue dominates the highway leading to Caracas. She stands at the heart of an ethnic trilogy of spirits, including her companions Guaicaipuro and the black slave rebel, Negro Felipe. Ismael and the other holy thugs form the corte malandra or thug court, the latest to be added to the cult of Maria Lionza. Other courts include the corte medica (medical court) based in a nearby pantheon, consisting of doctors who are believed to be responsible for healing miracles and whose leader, Jose Gregorio Hernandez, may soon be canonised by the Catholic Church. But holy thugs rank lowest in the saintly hierarchy, since they are regarded as spirits of "low light" who, in order to gain redemption in death, must undo the harm they committed. This explains why many santeros or spiritual practitioners shun them. But it does not stop their followers leaving small offerings like beer, anisette liquor and even knives, asking for protection, a son to be released from prison or even to be blessed with luck before committing a crime. "I've seen everyone here, even policemen and church members. Rich people arrive in nice cars, stop there and come to ask for favours from Ismael. It's one of the most visited graves in the cemetery," says William Contreras, the cemetery's manager, as he points to the passage leading to the graves, now decorated as shrines, of the holy thugs. The thugs' popularity is so widespread that those who do not want to visit the cemetery can buy figurines of Ismael and others at the bustling market located outside the cemetery gates, next to stands selling beer, clothes and flowers for the dead. Silvia Correya, the owner of one of the stores, explains that clients prefer replicas of Ismael, which cost 25,000 Bolivars (£7). "People have been buying these saints for a long time, but since the last two or three years mainly youngsters and malandros have been buying them, it's become a real fashion," he said. BACKGROUND CARACAS is one of the most dangerous cities in Latin America with 130 murders per 100,000 people, compared to Britain's two per 100,000, according to the Foreign Policy Journal.
The number of murders in Venezuela has soared from less than 6,000 during 1999 – the first year in office for President Hugo Chavez – to more than 13,000 last year, official figures show. And in 2006, the United Nations estimated that per capita there were more deaths from guns than anywhere else in the world. Shootings are common in poor urban neighbourhoods and kidnapping is a problem, especially along the Colombian border. Crime as a whole is now worse than neighbouring Colombia, that is in the grip of a four-decades-old civil conflict. In April 2007, officials in Caracas tried to make the city safer by using three mini remote-controlled airships to monitor criminal activity from the skies. Each had a camera that beamed back pictures to a control room.