The area has suffered heavily from attacks by drug cartels in recent weeks, including the murder of the mayor of El Cercado, leading to the tentative conclusion that the crime was committed by people serving narcotics traffickers.
About 70 Protestant Christians lived in the village of San Rafael Tlanalapan, Puebla state, until last week Monday, when they faced a frightening ultimatum — leave immediately or be “crucified or lynched.”
Traditionalist Catholics in the village reportedly threatened to burn down or otherwise destroy their homes.
The “Santa Muerte” cult has become popular among drug traffickers in Mexico, in part because followers believe the skeletal figure of the female “saint” may protect them from death or arrest.
Leaders of traditionalist Catholicism, a mixture of Roman Catholicism and native rituals, expelled 32 Christians from their homes in a village in Hidalgo state and another 25 from a town in Oaxaca; in each case, the evangelicals were deprived of their property for refusing to participate in drunken festivals that included worship of Catholic icons.
Police said they found an altar to the skeletal figure of the “Santa Muerte,” an unofficial patron saint of death, in the home of two men arrested in connection with the slayings, while several scorched spots were discovered in a nearby clearing.
Nabor Cardenas, a defrocked Roman Catholic priest known as “Papa Nabor” and founder of the New Jerusalem religious community, died Tuesday of renal and respiratory problems.