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MEXICO CITY, Mexico (ChurchMilitant.com) - The new president of Mexico incorporated pagan rituals into his inaugural ceremonies.
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (also known as "Amlo") received "traditional blessings" from indigenous priests and priestesses on Dec. 1. He partook in a purification ritual alongside First Lady Beatriz Gutiérrez Müller.
Then, a man bestowed upon López Obrador a staff symbolizing his presidential authority which was topped with the head of ancient Meso-American pagan deity Quetzalcoatl — typically represented as a feathered snake.
#AMLO recibe el Bastón de Mando de los pueblos originarios indígenas de México que simboliza su reconocimiento y respaldo moral.— adn40 (@adn40) December 1, 2018
Síguelo en vivo a través de nuestro streaming: https://t.co/5arGxkpqJq | #CambioDePoder pic.twitter.com/oUO9wzbkYz
The purification ritual was part of the inauguration ceremonies marking the beginning of López Obrador's presidency. It took place in Zocalo, Mexico City's main square, in front of the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven.
United States Vice President Mike Pence and other top White House officials flew in for the inauguration of Mexico's new president — whom headlines have dubbed Mexico's "first leftist president in decades."
López Obrador gave a 90-minute speech to the thousands of people who came to his inaugural celebration, in which he emphasized economic policies and caring for the country's poor.
On the campaign trail leading up to his election earlier this year, López Obrador was quiet on the issues of abortion and the definition of marriage. He spoke often about religious and cultural values, but avoided getting into specifics about so-called "social issues."
Mexico is a nominally Catholic country, with slightly more than 80 percent of the population identifying itself as Catholic.
As is the case in much of Central and South America, Catholicism in Mexico is losing members — often to Evangelical Protestantism and Mormonism. But Mexico is not losing Catholics as fast as other countries in that part of the world: A 2014 Pew Research Center report found that 90 percent of Mexican adults said they were raised Catholics and 81 percent still identified as Catholics.
This is in contrast with a country like Nicaragua, where 75 percent of the people were raised Catholic but only 50 percent currently identify as Catholic.
In Mexico, it is not uncommon to see occult practices which blend vaguely Catholic-looking rituals with pagan ceremonies and beliefs. This is often referred to as "syncretism," which refers to combining different religions in "melting-pot" fashion.
Among those syncretizing practices, which are condemned by the Catholic Church, is the cult of "Santa Muerte," meaning "saint death" or "holy death." Small statues of this female "saint," who personifies death, are common in some parts of Mexico.
A common explanation for these rituals is that when Christianity came to the New World, some local peoples nominally accepted Christ but sought to preserve pagan rituals by reinventing pagan deities as "patron saints" of sorts.