Friday, April 15, 2016

On the O.J. Simpson Murder Trial

On the O.J. Simpson Murder Trial: Legally speaking, there was nothing terribly shocking about the O.J. Simpson verdict in October 1995. After it became clear that the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) tampered with evidence, exoneration of criminal liability was the only option for the jury. Culturally speaking, however, the Simpson murder trial had a major rippling effect on American society, especially in terms of race relations. At a time when affirmative action statutes were being deemed no longer necessary, the Simpson trial brought questions of race and justice back into the fold. To add some context here, the trial occurred a mere three years after the 1992 Los Angeles riots. Thus, the city was still raw with a heightened sense of racial tension. Like the Rodney King trial, where four LAPD officers were acquitted of brutal behavior, the Simpson trial called the American ideal of "equal justice under law" into serious question. But what made the Simpson trial particularly intriguing was how it divided Americans along racial lines. Overwhelmingly, Caucasian-Americans attributed guilt to Simpson's actions while African-Americans believed he was innocent. Above all, technicalities matter tremendously in American law, as they often serve as the drivers of due process.

Friday, April 1, 2016

On Folk Catholicism and Drug Trafficking

On Folk Catholicism and Drug Trafficking: In many parts of Latin America and the Caribbean, aspects of the Catholic Church (especially sainthood) have meshed with elements of localized folk religions. Thus, "folk Catholicism" is any kind of ethnic or localized expression of Catholic teachings that have either be confirmed or denied as blasphemous by the Church. Perhaps one of the most well-known "saints" in folk Catholicism is Santa Muerte (pictured above). In Mexico and parts of the American Southwest, Saint Death is worshiped on a cult level as a protector of souls making the transition to the afterlife. Although worship of her is considered heretical by the Catholic Church, she is particularly popular among drug traffickers (who live with the prospects of death all the time). Aside from Santa Muerte, drug traffickers also pay homage to a folk saint named Jesus Malverde. But unlike Saint Death, Malverde is believed to have been an actual person who lived in Sinaloa, Mexico, from the 1870s to the early 1900s. Growing up under the dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz, Malverde saw how impoverished the people of Sinaloa had become. And after his parents died in poverty, he became a "righteous" bandit committing robberies and smuggling illicit goods with a Robin Hood mentality in mind.