During the 31-year reign of Porfirio Diaz (1877 – 1911) the poor of Mexico were being left behind as he modernized and developed the country with foreign investment money. At that time, men either became rich through the development or became bandits to attain those riches. In 1910 the impoverished people of Mexico rose up in revolt and initiated the Mexican Revolution (1910 -1920) for a better life.  

The bandits, living in the hills and back roads, became folk heroes. Among them arose the legend of a “Robin Hood” figure who rode in the hills near Culiacan, Sinaloa. It is said he robbed from the rich and gave to the poor. Historians have not agreed if he was actually a living person or just a legend. He may have been a combination of 2 men. It is also not known for sure if he was captured and hanged or shot or if he may have been betrayed for a reward. 

The most popular legend of Jesus Malverde is that he was hung in Culiacan on May 3, 1909 and left to rot, dangling from the tree of his execution. Legend also has it that the tree died after the hanging. It is said that his bones were taken down and buried after a man prayed to Malverde to help him find his mules. The man found them and buried Jesus Malverde’s remains in a secret location.  

The supposed place of his burial had become a shrine until it was moved in order to erect an office building. His shrine is now located in an area that the developer set aside expressly for it. Every year on the anniversary of his death there is a fiesta at the shrine. Thousands of people a year go to the shrine to pray for miracles or to leave notes of thanks for him. His followers place photos of loved ones, light candles, and place letters requesting his help for the healing of diseases, physical and spiritual, or to help with a farmer’s crop of marijuana.

Sinaloa has been a center for the drug trade and for smugglers for many years, and are folk heroes to the poor of Sinaloa. The smugglers and drug dealers do pray to Malverde for his protection. When prayers have been answered the people pay for musicians to play music at the shrine in thanksgiving and celebration. Jesus Malverde is referred to as the “Angel of the Poor” and the “Generous Bandit” by the people.

Malverde was a folk hero and revered as a miracle worker long before the media dubbed him the “Narco Saint.” Jesus Malverde is a “saint” to the people in one capacity or another; he is not recognized by the Catholic Church as such. An interested reader can find videos on You Tube displaying the shrine of Jesus Malverde and some of the popular culture surrounding him. Movies and a play are also available in Spanish. There is a beer named in his honor, and many other products bearing his name are for sale at the shrines as well as online.