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Hey Jude … cops, robbers, saints and sinners

30 October 2004

28 October is El Día de San Judas Tadeo. Rolly Brooks’ always excellent website is up to its usual standards, covering El Día de San Judas Tadeo down in his neck of Oxaca. 

 Jude, perhaps because he’s easily confused with Judas (Jude was a mere bench-warming disciple, til the Apostles lost one of their starters), is the patron saint of hopeless cases and lost causes. The perfect saint for Mexico: statistically Mexicans are some of the happiest people on the planet , maybe because they embrace lost causes and just expect things to be hopeless. And Mexicans, with their good-natured black humor, make Saint Judas Tadeo the patron saint of both cops and robbers (and prostitutes, for good measure). Basically, he’s the generic patron saint of disreputable activities. Given that Mexico City has more than its share of disreputable professionals, El Día de San Judas Tadeo is an important holiday you’d never know about from reading the tourist books. His biggest – and most important shrine – is one of my favorite churches, Iglesia de San Hipólito (Paseo de la Reforma at Puente d’Alvarado).San Hipólito is one of the best preserved Colonial churches. It’s a damn shame more people don’t know about it.

Among other things, it was the world’s first alcoholic rehab.
Vasco de Quiroga, who came to Mexico when he was well over 60 was the first in a long line of foreign retirees who found a new life, and surprising second career here in Mexico. Vasco was planning to retire to a monastery after his long career as a criminal court judge in Spain. Like so many retirees to follow, he reasoned his money would go further here, and he agreed to sail to Mexico to work one more year. Mostly, who came before him were formerly reputable Aztecs who got drunk and got into trouble. Vasco, did two amazing things – he became one of the first people in history to realize that alcoholism was a disease, and – absolutely mind-boggling for a scholarly gentleman of his time – sprang into action. Having blown his savings on a hospital and church meant the old guy needed a job. So… having saved a few Aztecs, he took on the Tarascans. He had himself ordained and consecrated as Bishop of Michoacán. THEN… just to prove he wasn’t any run of the mill early colonial archbishop… he and the Tarascans worked out a “master plan” for the people’s survival. They adapted Thomas More’s Utopia to the local situation (hey, it was the New World and it was the Renaissance… people were willing to experiment). The Tarascans organized communal villages (some still surviving) where everyone had a job. The Archbishop included: Vasco de Quiroga spent the next 35 years of his life (no one is quite sure when he was born, but he was somewhere around 100 when he died) writing contracts. Age and experience must count for something – those 16th century contracts are still valid.But enough about a colonial good-guy. Let’s get back to Jude’s bad boys (and girls). Given it’s parishioners, San Hipólito isn’t included on most tours. I’ve only been in there once, and yes I did watch my wallet! It’s hard to get into… given Saint Jude’s popularity, when it’s not locked up, it’s packed. Even on normal Sundays, the crowd spills out into the street and the Clarentian Fathers who preach to the unruly, resort to bullhorns and a huge PA system to get their message across.The brave — or foolhearty — photographers at el Universal covered San Judas’ festivities. You can take a look for yourself at:

Thou Shalt Not Steal” probably wouldn’t go over well with that crowd, but the Fathers are continually sermonizing against Santa Muerte, the Afro-Brazilian(?)-Cuban(?)-Mexican voodoo protector of those with dangerous occupations (… like, cops, robbers and prostitutes). While the ecumenical council of icon vendors just outside the church gates sell both, they defer to tradition and stick Santa Muerte under the counter on San Judeo Day.Día de los Muertos is November 2 – She’ll be back…. Whhhhoooooooo!


SANTA MUERTE — Guardian of … Abbott Laboratories and other gangsters

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