In Venezuela’s capital city of Caracas, one of the most violent places on the planet, distraught residents now worship a new pantheon of saints — the statuettes of deceased criminals — seeking relief from the never-ending carnage. These Santos Malandros, or Holy Thugs, are adorned with sideways baseball hats instead of halos. They’re often armed, and display wounds from knife fights, street brawls and shootouts.
Residents from the poor shanty towns who revere these criminal saints have built shrines in their honor, and bring them gifts — cigarettes, drugs, booze and occasionally the traditional flowers — in hopes that the supplicants’ prayers will be answered. And what are those prayers? Perhaps early release from prison. A cure for a drug addict. Revenge for homicide.
Ryan Duffy from Vice travels to Caracas to find out more about this hybrid religious practice, blending elements from Catholicism, Santeria and animism.