A U.S. Customs agent Wednesday said members of a drug-smuggling ring giggled and postured as they led officers to the bodies of 12 men sacrificed during the practice of the Cuban cult religion Santeria.
Agent Oran Neck said the four suspects in custody willingly led officers to the graves on a Mexican border ranch and identified the leader of the cult and five other members, perhaps thinking all of them were invulnerable because of black magic.The ringleader, whom the members called Padrino (godfather), was identified by authorites as Adolfo de Jesus Constanzo, 27, who was born in Florida to Cuban parents and lives in Matamoros across the Rio Grande from Brownsville.
Santeria, brought to America by Cuban immigrants, combines Christianity with the religious traditions of West Africa. The name means "saint worship." During the ceremonies, the Santero, or priest, sacrifices of chickens and goats to seek help from the gods known as the Seven African Powers.
Neck said "physical characteristics" found at the ranch and the fact that Constanzo is a Cuban national led officials to believe the group was practicing Santeria.
"They prayed every day," Neck said. "They went to this cabin every day and did certain things. There were several cases of Mexican liquor and several boxes of cigars. They would go every day and smoke cigars and do black magic. Supposedly smoking cigars gave them power."
Neck said a wood shack located near the graves was the location for the voodoo rituals, and that it was filled with grisly evidence of black magic, particularly a metal kettle in which the brains and blood of victims were boiled.