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On Being with Krista Tippett is a public radio project delving into the human side of news stories + issues. Curated + edited by senior editor Trent Gilliss.

We publish guest contributions. We edit long; we scrapbook. We do big ideas + deep meaning. We answer questions.

We've even won a couple of Webbys + a Peabody Award.

Spirits with a Low Light: The Santos Milandros, The “Holy Thugs” of Venezuela

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

recién llegadosNo religion runs pure, free of human influence. But a cult of growing prominence in Venezuela takes syncretism to a whole new level of practicality, purpose, and paradox.

"One day the santos malandros help a desperate mother keep her child off drugs; the next day they help you score some cocaine. It’s the duality of life, but that’s the way real life functions. I also believe in the Virgin Mary and my other saints — it’s just that these saints understand the street better.” 
~Judith Escalona

The video report above from Vice magazine takes you inside this bizarre world and gives you a taste of these “sainted,” now dead, street-level criminals and lets you see the hope they provide to the poor, who are living in the some of the most desperate conditions. An absolutely fascinating look into the way people make faith their own.

(photo: Ronald Rivas Casallas/Flickr)