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William Calvo-Quiros


Mellon Fellow
Affiliation at time of award:
Assistant Professor
Department of American Culture and Latino Studies
University of Michigan

William Calvo-Quiros

Saints of Migration: Border Specters, Saints, and Sinners

Saints of Migration investigates the U.S.-Mexico border not only as a physical frontier of socio-economic and political conflict, but also as an epistemic battleground over spiritual and imaginary geographies. Dr. Calvo-Quiros’ project analyzes the emergence, evolution, and migration of five folk border saints as historical artifacts that embody the struggles of migrating Latinx communities in the last one-hundred years. This project follows: Jesús Malverde, a popular bandito turned into a saint of narcotraffickers; Juan Soldado, a murder-rapist soldier who is now a patron for undocumented immigrants; Santa Olguita, an emerging feminist-saint linked to border women’s experiences with sexual violence; La Santa Muerte, a personalization of Death associated with drugs and human trafficking who is popular among LGBTQ immigrants; and Toribio Romo, a Catholic priest whose ghost helps people cross the border. Saints of Migration unveils the politics and struggles of popular border religiosity and its sophisticated role in envisioning a future beyond oppression.

Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Generous funding for this Fellowship provided by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.


“Blessed Amongst Us”: The Politics of Popular Religious Migration

October 10, 2018
Eric S. Dobkin Boardroom, SAR Campus
Santa Fe, NM

Narco saints and skeletons in hats. Mexican martyrs and executed rapists. What type of saints are these, and what do they really represent in the US-Mexico borderlands? William Calvo-Quiros spent ten years tracing the movement and evolution of meaning of popular saints from Mexico to the United States. Using a chronological approach, Calvo-Quiros analyzes five vernacular saint figures (Jesús Malverde, Santa Olguita, Juan Soldado, Toribio Romo, and La Santa Muerte) within broader discourses: the construction of masculinity and the state; the long history of violence against women in the region; the erasure of women from history; the major US demographic and religious shifts generated by the influx of new Catholic Latinx immigrants; the discrimination against nonnormative sexualities; and the United States’ and Mexico’s formal and informal control of religiosity in relation to migration. This presentation unveils not only the politics and struggles behind border popular religiosity, but also its sophisticated role in envisioning a future beyond oppression.

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Video by Garret P Vreeland