by Scott Corrales
Evelyn Isidro was a dutiful daughter: on January 6, 2007, her mother sent her out to buy diapers for her baby brother. Six year-old Evelyn never came home, with or without the diapers. It wasn’t that she was hit by a car or fell down a ravine. The little Guatemalan girl had the misfortune to run into a pair of tyro devil worshippers who needed a sacrifice for the dark lord.
Little Evelyn Isidro would have more than likely spent the rest of her life in the anonymity of poverty in her native Guatemala, but the twist of fate that cost her young life also catapulted her name to international notoriety. Newswires and the Spanish-language Univisión network soon informed millions of shocked viewers of the “Satanic crime” perpetrated by two teenage heavy-metal fans in the Mezquital slum of Guatemala City.
A police spokeswoman told the press that devil-worship paraphernalia had been recovered from the site where the child had been sacrificed. The skull of a cow and a crude pentagram carved in the soil stood in mute testament to the ritual performed by Walter Aguirre, 18, and Rollyn Arrivillaga, 19. A police sociologist added that a toad wrapped in tattered cloth and an image of the Maximón—a Mayan idol venerated in rural Guatemala and associated with witchcraft—had also been discovered at the crime scene, proof positive of ritual murder.
The two murder suspects sounded less like the acolytes of the dark deity and more like frightened teenagers. Aguirre’s half-hearted apology was that he had been both drunk and under the influence of drugs at the time of the murder, and that what he had done was una mulada—an act of sheer stupidity. But this excuse or apology, if indeed it was one, did not satisfy anyone. A lynch mob of hundreds of residents from the shantytown besieged the police station where the two detainees were being held, with the clear purpose of exacting the only possible justice against them. It took tear gas to disperse the angry crowd.
Perhaps the only sympathy for the perpetrators came from a local newspaper editorial that explained their actions as the desperation of dead-end youth in a country without opportunities for anyone. “When good failed them, they opted for evil,” rationalized the article. Consumerism, neoliberalism, and a host of other evils were blamed as the real cause of the crime, not the twisted beliefs of two hapless teenagers.
The rise of Satanic cults in the Spanish-speaking world is seen as forming part of the growth of cults of all sorts—religious, political, apocalyptic—in South America and Spain. Some of these cults are relatively benign: contactees awaiting salvation from the “good space brothers” in true Adamskian fashion; other groups engaged in following the Scriptures verbatim, often hiding out in the hills; or groups of honest, hardworking citizens who attended a séance and were told by a channeled spirit to give it all up and embark on a different life path. Other cults are not quite so sanguine, such as the neo-fascist and extremist organizations.
Afro-Brazilian Black Magic
Perhaps one of the most stunning and widely reported Satanic crimes of the 1990s occurred in Portuguese-speaking Brazil. In 1992, practitioners of the darker varieties of Afro-Brazilian worship were accused of sacrificing a boy as part of a black magic ritual. The event, which occurred in the city of Guaratuba, was investigated by law enforcement and it involved an Umbanda warlock named Marceneiro, who kidnapped a six year old from Guaratuba and sacrificed him to Exu, in exchange for material rewards and protection. In a country where Spiritualism, Candomblé and Umbanda are part of the national identity, the most stunning detail was not the existence of the cult, but the fact that the wife and daughter of Guaratuba’s mayor were part of the organization, and it had been these women who commanded the child’s slaying. The authorities secured a recording in which the two women confessed to Evandro’s murder.
This sad event, which appeared to be related only to the Guaratuba, soon acquired an international dimension: Marceneiro, possibly as part of a plea bargain deal, said that his guilt in a similar crime also involved the Lady MacBeth-like presence of the mayor’s wife. A nine-year-old named Leandro had been kidnapped in February 1992, and allegedly sent to Argentina to be sacrificed by another Satanic cult under the command of José Teruggi, an Argentinean sorcerer. Video evidence attesting to this allegation showed Teruggi in a trance state, possessed by some dark entity, demanding the sacrifice of children in order to enrich his energies.
These events, largely overlooked outside the country, were tied to an alarming wave of “missing child” reports. Five children had been murdered in Sao Luiz in September 1991, and infant corpses were being sold in cemeteries in cosmopolitan Sao Paulo. No direct link to Marceneiro was ever established by the authorities, but it led to a widespread belief that other cults were operating in the area. Moved by all of this carnage, an anonymous Catholic priest was quoted as saying: “What goes on in Brazil is hardly new, and much less in Argentina, where there is evidence of human sacrifice in black magic rituals.” Argentina’s major newspapers—La Nacion and Clarin—ran articles about the growth of extreme cults and the very real dangers associated with them, even as the government began enacting legislation to regulate and punish cult activity.
On July 29, 1992, an article in the Argentinean newspaper Clarin featured the following remark by Atilio Alvarez, chairman of the Consejo del Menor y la Familia (Board on Minors and the Family), in which the official cautioned: “The cults operating in our country take advantage of children and adolescents, and it is therefore necessary to keep such groups, with psychopathic tendencies, from proliferating. Attracting a single child as a victim is a crime, even when the boy is not harmed or driven to commit suicide.”
Government agencies and think tanks, however, were not interested in the paranormal. Their focus was on the social injustice that gave rise to extremist worship. Juan Yaria, a substance-abuse expert from Universidad del Salvador, told Clarin that the city’s districts boasted cults that took advantage of drug addicts and street children as a recruiting pool. “Youngsters are very lonely in all social classes, and lack parenting. In the absence of real parents, they seek out disturbed father figures in the presence of an Umbanda warlock, a criminal or the leader of a drug cult.”
Third National Conference on Exorcism
In July 2007, fifteen years after South American sociologists decried the role of society in the formation of cults, three hundred priests met in Cuatitlan Izcalli on the outskirts of Mexico City to form part of the Third National Conference on Exorcism. The conference’s main theme was the lackadaisical approach taken by many—including exorcists—in matters involving the occult.
Francisco Lopez Sedano, a retired exorcist from the Archdiocese of Mexico City, stated that rationalistic thought, and the belief that mental illness is the true cause behind cases of possession, has caused priests to lower their guard: “I didn’t believe [in exorcism]. Now, after many confrontations, I’ve had to learn the hard way. We are only now beginning to learn, but there’s a long way to go, and the cradle of rationalism is the seminary itself, where the belief in Satan is considered archaic.” Father Lopez Sedano added that there were over 100 Satanic churches in Mexico alone, adding that, “today, as in the past, ignorance is the main route of entry for the Satanic.”
The Third National Congress on Exorcism provided the religious with an array of theoretical and practical tools designed to help in the task of expelling demons. In 1997, there was only one practicing exorcist in all of Mexico. Ten years later, all but two of the country’s eight dioceses have one. The general attitude toward media coverage of this event was one of anger by the priests, who felt that the press was drawn to it out of sheer sensationalism rather than a desire to learn. “Gentlemen, this is not a show,” chided one priest in a radio interview.
While this third conference of exorcists may have been a low-key event that only received a skeptical or humorous treatment in the media, the first conference, held in September 2001, was a high visibility event for the Mexican clergy, with an impressive number of speakers, among them Gabriel Amorth, the founder of the International Association of Exorcists. Five hundred religious and lay auxiliaries met in Mexico City to discuss not only exorcism, but also the Church’s stance against witchcraft, spiritism, astrology, freemasonry, and all things “not of God.” The panels had compelling titles, such as “Challenges and Perspectives for the Exorcist’s Ministry,” “Skepticism and Gullibility” and “The Exorcist: A Pious, Wise, Prudent and Clean-Living Presbyter.”
Perhaps Father Lopez Sedano had good reason to be concerned: in November 2000, a number of mutilated bodies were found in an old house in the Azcapotzalco section of Mexico City. The perpetrators of this crime were two young women with a curious background—they were the youngest members of a secretive clan of witches whose ancestry went back many centuries. The oldest witch initiated the younger girls, and her name inspired such fear among locals that she often went unnamed. The corpses uncovered in this Mexican House of Usher belonged to a thirty-year-old woman and a teenager, who were apparently slain as part of a Satanic ritual.
NarcoSatanismo, a predominantly Mexican variant of Satanism, has also been on the rise. As its name indicates, it is practiced by drug traffickers (narcotraficantes) with the aim to secure protection by the dark forces against the efforts of law enforcement. The narcoSatanista engages in cruel human sacrifices to obtain protection, ranging from the power of invisibility to invulnerability against bullets or even larger projectiles. Nuevo Laredo, on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande, has become one of the most active hotspots of cult activity. In 2003, a feature in La Cronica discussed the mutilated human bodies found in this city in detail. Some of the hapless victims had been exsanguinated and their blood preserved in jelly jars; others were decapitated; some had bits of their spinal columns turned into tie clips for drug cartel leaders.
Much attention was given to a house in Nuevo Laredo known only as “la casa blanca” (the white house), where evidence of this activity had been uncovered by law enforcement. Its walls were covered with drawings of human heads surmounted with animal horns, and a bloated body was found lying in the middle of a chalk-drawn pentagram. According to one of the policemen interviewed, the house is still in use by Satanist teenagers for their own rituals.
Satanism in Mexico shows no signs of abating. In March 2008, the Diocese of Querétaro created a Ministry of Exorcism as a result of the growth of phenomena related to victims of curses, possessions, obsessions and oppressions. According to a circular letter signed by Msr. Mario de Gasperin, Bishop of Querétaro, his diocese has documented four hundred cases of demonic possession over the past five years, resulting from involvement in witchcraft, faith healing or the Ouija board.
Satanism in Spain
On June 30, 2000, Spain’s El Mundo newspaper ran the shocking story of how three teenage girls from affluent Italian families had participated in the brutal murder of a 67-year-old nun at the very start of that month. The explanation given by the teens for this heinous act was chilling: “It was nothing personal against that woman, it was against the Church.”
The crime was committed in the locality of Chiavenna in Northern Italy, and authorities were quick to ascribe Satanic connotations to the crime because the murder had taken place on 6/6 in a barren field used by the three teens—two of them aged 17 and the other 16—to summon the devil. Their plan was carefully and maliciously thought out: one of the girls phoned the nun, Sister Maria Laura, to tell her that she had become pregnant and was in need of the nun’s advice. It was imperative to meet discreetly in a place where no one could find them. When she kept the appointment in the lonely field, the girls pounced on her and stabbed her nineteen times. When questioned by the Carabineri, the Italian state police, the teenagers collapsed under pressure and confessed to the deed. Their confession, aside from the fact that strands of hair from one of the girls were found in the nun’s fingers, closed the case. Great care was taken not to mention the Satanic aspects of the case, but the authorities turned up a series of notebooks in the girls’ homes that were filled with occult lore.
In February 2005, Fran Ruiz, a correspondent for Spain’s La Cronica, penned a fascinating article about the resurgence of Satanism in Spain and its multiple manifestations, evidenced in the desecration of churches and cemeteries and the ever-present fear that, as in Brazil, disappearances of minors could be somehow connected to ritual sacrifice. Conservative estimates by the authorities place the total number of devotees of Satan at fewer than three thousand, scattered over several scores of sects throughout the Iberian Peninsula. Even if the cults consist of two or three individuals, the damage they can do is considerable.
The Church of Saints John and Paul, on the outskirts of Madrid, was broken into in 2005 not by drug addicts hoping to steal money from the till, as authorities suspected, but by much more targeted vandals. According to Father César Arbola, the thieves were after the church artifacts and consecrated communion wafers. No other valuables were taken and no other acts of vandalism were committed. The sacred artifacts were much more valuable on the black market that specializes in stolen objects belonging to church rituals: a single communion wafer can fetch five hundred Euros, and the price can vary according to the importance of the church it was pilfered from, its size and the priest who consecrated it. A host consecrated by the Pope himself, for example, would have an “incalculable” value, according to Ruiz’s article.
One of Spain’s most visible social concerns is the sudden arrival of migrants from North Africa in search of a better life—a journey fraught with peril, even when the illegal immigrants finally make it to Spain. It is believed that many of these undocumented arrivals disappear once they are in the country—mostly women and children—and some suspect that they may have been killed in rituals. While this cannot be substantiated, there is evidence that some of the most visible Satanic cults in Spain, including the Church of Satan and the Worshippers of Seth, practice “red masses” where sacrificial blood is consumed, mainly from animals. Other groups such as the Community of Iberian Witches have been accused of grave robbing, animal sacrifice and zoophilia. Some of the country’s other Satanic lodges, as they prefer to be called, include the Orden Illuminati de Barcelona (a more philosophical and “luciferian” group), El Nuevo Orden Dragano, Los Templarios Negros, and Los Amigos de Lucifer, among others.
While the concept of “Satanic crime” has been ridiculed in the United States, it can be seen from these cases that cult activity can produce violent activity and consequences that can be labeled Satanic. Of the countries examined in this article, it is Spain that has the most outspoken occult groups, and the nation whose police forces have adopted the hard line.
In 2005, Manuel Carballal, one of the foremost experts in cult activity in all its manifestations (religious, ufological and esoteric), wrote an article for the Mundo Misterioso website about how the Iglesia de Satán was planning a massive “ecumenical council” to summon all the Iberian Peninsula’s Satanist groups into the open. Carballal’s article states that a current official with Spain’s Ministry of Justice was not only responsible for this attempt at legitimizing the church, but had also presided over it in the past. The man, identified only as “José M.C.,” explained that a significant number of government officials, particularly in the ministries of Defense and Justice, also belonged to Satanic lodges that are loosely tied to Neo-Fascist organizations.
This resurgence of Satanism in Spain is not only circumscribed to the mainland. An effort has been made by another group to turn the Canary Islands into the world headquarters of Satanism, and offers a variety of merchandise and promotional materials through the pages of ICOR, its journal. Carballal mentions that one of the items sold in this publication, a ceremonial blade described as “ideal for decapitating sacrificial victims,” caused the publication and the cult behind it to be investigated by the authorities.
What are we to make of all these developments in the Spanish-speaking world? While Mexico’s ecclesiastical authorities have chosen to perceive this rise in Satanic activity as a spiritual or religious matter, its police forces see it as clearly tied to the seemingly endless wave of drug trafficking that has turned many parts of that country into “no-go” areas for law enforcement.
Spain, on the other hand, sees it in strict terms of criminal activity, with no paranormal component whatsoever—a belief that many cult members would support, given that their varied philosophies lean more toward right-wing ideology and less toward the medieval grimoire. Can we really say that there is a “black sun rising” or merely an intellectual rejection of the Establishment and its values, manifesting itself in a cruel, bloody fashion?
©2008 Scott Corrales. Scott is a writer and translator of UFO and paranormal subjects in Latin America and Spain. His work has appeared in magazines in the U.S., U.K., Japan, Spain and Italy. He is also the author of Chupacabras and Other Mysteries (Greenleaf, 1997), Flashpoint: High Strangeness in Puerto Rico (Amarna, 1998) and Forbidden Mexico (1999). He lives in Pennsylvania, where he edits Inexplicata: The Journal of Hispanic UFOlogy. He may be reached at [email protected]
Mundo Misterioso website (in Spanish), http://portal.mundomisterioso.com.
Manuel Carballal blog (in Spanish), http://manuelcarballal.blogspot.com.
“Mexican exorcist criticizes priests who do not believe in the Devil,” Catholic News Agency, Jul 24, 2007, www.catholicnewsagency.com/new.php?n=9947
“Exorcisms Rise in Mexico, Keeping Father Mendoza Busy,” Dec. 29, 2007, Bloomberg.com.
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