Thursday, October 22, 2009

Santeria Priest Who Won Legal Victory Is Profiled

Yesterday's Dallas Observer carries a long background piece on Jose Merced, the Santeria priest who recently won a 5th Circuit victory allowing him to continue animal sacrifices at his Euless, Texas home, despite the city's health and safety concerns. (See prior posting.) Here is a short excerpt:

The litigation had taken its toll on Merced. His testimony and the media attention that followed brought many of SanterĂ­a's secrets into the open and unnerved those devotees who saw its mystery as part of its theology as well as its enchantment.

He had written letters to the several hundred Santeros he had met over the years, asking each to contribute $100 to his legal defense fund. But many turned him down. Some were fearful that his case would reveal the secrets that gave power and meaning to their religion; others felt his case was his own personal crusade and not a cause for all who practice SanterĂ­a. "They want to keep on hiding," Merced says, "which I don't understand."

Last night, for the first time in over three years, Merced was to resume his sacrifices of four-legged animals in a ceremony designed to heal the severe back pain, depression and loneliness of a follower. She would be initiated into the priesthood through the sacrifice of animals which, according to Santeria belief, must die so she can live a healthy and spiritual life. Meanwhile the Euless city attorney is exploring whether there are other routes available to end Merced's practices.