Holy Thugs (Santos Malandros)

Religious beliefs are a strong part of Venezuelan culture. Traditional belief’s have been contested for over 200 years. The Venezuelan people of have looked for nontraditional deities for guidance. In the late 80’s early 90’s the “Holy Thugs” or Santos Malandros were born. This court of thugs consisted of notorious criminals now regarded as deities. The leader of the court, Juan Francisco Carrillo (aka Ismael Sánchez) led a gang in the 60’s. He lived in an extremely impoverished part of Caracas, barrios of 23. It’s believed Ismael was killed by a corrupt cop in 1963. Ismael and his gang are considered modern day “Robin Hoods”. They stole from the rich and gave back to the poor. This is why they’re held in high regard. Today, the Holy Thugs consist of figurines of Ismael Sánchez, Elizabeth, Petroleo, Miguel, Luis Sánchez, Freddy Marcano, William, Carlos Quintero, Larry, El Ratón, and more. The Holy Thugs are said to protect people from various dangers. Venezuelan’s pray to them for a variety of reasons. These can include health of a loved one, protection from violence, and relief from addiction. The people who turn to the Thugs relate to their way of life. And where a justice system has failed them, they’re turning to spirits they can trust.