Girish Gupta

HOME

BY THEME

Brazil Unrest
Cuba Reforms
Diamonds
Environment
Hugo Chávez
Mexico's Drug War
Science
Syria Civil War
Venezuela Crime
Venezuela Economy
Venezuela Opposition
Venezuela Protests

BY MEDIUM

Text
Photo
Radio
TV/Video

BY COUNTRY

Brazil
Colombia
Cuba
Ecuador
Egypt
Guyana
Jordan
Lebanon
Mexico
United Kingdom
Venezuela

BY PUBLISHER

Al Jazeera
BBC
BuzzFeed
CBC
Christian Science Monitor
CNN
Datum
Economist Intelligence Unit
Emerging Markets
Financial Times
Foreign Policy
France 24
GlobalPost
Guardian
La Prensa (Panamá)
LatinFinance
Mancunion
Monocle
National (Abu Dhabi)
New Internationalist
New Statesman
New York Times
New Yorker
NPR
PBS
PRI
Radio France Internationale
Reuters
RTÉ
Sky News
Sun
Sunday Times
Telegraph
TIME
Times of London
USA Today
Vice
WLRN

ABOUT

About Girish
CV [PDF]
E-Mail Girish
Venezuelan cult draws tens of thousands of followers
Oct. 31, 2011 15:12 GMT — Sorte, Venezuela



Published by Reuters (en español, em Português)

The jungle air is thick with cigar smoke and pierced by an occasional scream as drums beat, people chant and candles flicker illuminating bodies squirming.

Empty whisky bottles strewn across the ground are also a part of the ritual which is hundreds of years old.

"I still feel very cold thanks to the presence of the dead," said Ana Maria Caraya, who remembers her 15-minute trance as a dream. "I fell asleep. I feel nothing more."

The 25-year-old is one of thousands of believers in the cult of Maria Lionza, who is thought to have been born in the 16th century and was the daughter of an Indian chief.

Her followers travel to the jungles of the Sorte mountain in Venezuela's Yaracuy state for one week each October looking for healing and protection.

No one is certain about the origins of the cult, which includes aspects of Catholicism and African worship, or the number of followers. Estimates range from 10 percent to 30 percent of Venezuela's population.

Official believe about 20,000 followers, from Venezuela, the Americas and even Europe, descend on the mountain in October.

"MIRROR OF VENEZUELAN SOCIETY"

Caracas-born Eloy Parra is the medium who led Caraya in her trance, channeling the spirit of a 10th century Viking explorer who is now saint for the cult.

"What we're doing here is cleaning her aura with candles so she does not encounter earthly obstacles," said the 34-year-old, who was wearing only beads and shorts.

"Maria Lionza is the greatest thing we have here in Venezuela," she added.

Followers of the cult believe their chosen saint will possess the body of the medium who entices the follower into a trance in which they often speak in tongues or harm themselves.

Maria Lionza is known by members of the cult as La Reina or the queen. Angelina Pollok-Eltz, a former professor of anthropology at the Andres Bello Catholic University in Caracas who has written a number of books about the cult, said it began in the Sorte mountains in the early 1920s and was brought to Venezuela's urban centers a decade later.

"The majority of the believers are members of the lower classes," she added.

The latest trend is the worship of saints dedicated to the thugs that plague the streets of one of Latin America's most crime-ridden countries.

"The cult of Maria Lionza is like a mirror of Venezuelan culture and society," said Wade Glenn, an anthropologist at Tulane University in the United States.

"Whenever there is a significant change in the cult, we must ask ourselves what is occurring in Venezuela to cause such a change," he explained. "People use Maria Lionza as a coping mechanism for life's hardships, as a form of survival."

Wade believes that estimates of the number of members who take part in the rituals may be much higher.

"I am confident in stating that minimally 60 percent of the population or more has at some level participated in the cult of Maria Lionza."

Filed from
Sorte, Venezuela






More...

Government announces new taxes on luxury goods
Nov. 20, 2014 00:00 GMT


Foreign minister visits oil allies
Nov. 13, 2014 00:00 GMT


Finance minister nixes possible devaluation
Nov. 11, 2014 00:00 GMT


Petrol smuggling on the Colombia-Venezuela border
Nov. 10, 2014 07:00 GMT


Could Low Oil Prices End Venezuela's Revolution?
Nov. 03, 2014 12:00 GMT


Venezuela still worst place to do business in the Americas
Oct. 30, 2014 00:00 GMT


PDVSA scraps sale of Citgo
Oct. 28, 2014 15:30 GMT


FDI dropped sharply in first-half 2014
Oct. 28, 2014 12:00 GMT


The president’s approval ratings continue to slide
Oct. 23, 2014 12:00 GMT


Oil price slump pushing economy to the brink
Oct. 22, 2014 12:00 GMT


Venezuela to receive first ever imports of crude oil
Oct. 21, 2014 15:00 GMT


Can new leader jumpstart Venezuela's struggling opposition?
Oct. 14, 2014 20:00 GMT


Lack of flights leaves Venezuelans seeking more inventive ways out
Oct. 12, 2014 06:00 GMT


Venezuela ordered to pay compensation for expropriations
Oct. 10, 2014 00:00 GMT


Venezuela’s New Opposition Leader Jesús Torrealba Takes on the Chavistas
Oct. 09, 2014 21:11 GMT








© Girish Gupta