Fe is scapegoated by both the federal authorities and Acme International for using chemicals supplied by the company to clean aircraft parts (a chemical that has been outlawed in the state) and then dumping it into the water system of the area. Moreover, she has been suspended without pay and is at the mercy of the medical system as an indigent (186-187).
One would think in this culture of corruption and the cynicism of those who run it, that the people themselves would be cynical and agnostic, but their faith and piety is that much deeper. They cope with the lousy medical care by seeking faith healers and using herbs and other products provided by nature. La Loca who contracts HIV and acquires AIDS is not given the same kind of top-notch care that wealthy people with benefits are given. She ultimately dies in the arms of the "Lady in Blue" (244-245).
They immerse themselves that much more in mysticism and miracles. Their existence as the poor and downtrodden is usually so hellish they see their fallen as martyrs and believe in heaven that much more fervently. Nowhere is this more evident than in the depiction of the events that coincide with The Way of the Cross Procession."
Some, like Sofi, carry pictures "of their loved ones who died due to toxic exposure" (241). The language describes Jesus' torture on the way to His crucifixion in the middle of current day suffering of his poor, hispanic believers. Jesus' condemnation to death is put in with the protest about the radioactive dumping. Jesus bearing his cross is put in about the ever desperate conditions they are living in. "Jesus fell, and people all over the land were dying from toci exposure in the factories." Jesus meets his mother as three Navajo women talk about the brain-damaged, cancer-ridden babies they gave birth to. Jesus is helped by Simon and the number of those without jobs increases. Veronica wipes Jesus' face as "livestock drank and sawm in contaminated canals" (242). Jesus falls again and is consoled by the women of Jerusalem while children also play in these canals. Jesus falls for a third time as the air is polluted by factory contaminants. AIDS sweeps the land as Jesus is stripped of his garments (243).
This piety and faith of the poverty-stricken is truly a Catholic phenomenon. As a Catholic, myself, I remember reading about the life of Saint Catherine, whose name I chose for my confirmation. In her legend, she has a dream where she is presented with two crowns; one a crown of thorns and the other a crown of gold. She is told that whichever crown she chooses for her earthly life, she will wear the other crown in the afterlife. She chooses the crown of thorns for her earthly life in hopes of attaining the crown of gold in her afterlife.
While the faith and piety of the people is beautiful, it keeps them too resigned, too long-suffering, too patient to effect real change for themselves, very much bearing out Marx's observation that religion is the opiate for the people. I think it is no accident that the countries that hosted Protestantism and Reformation religions that ultimately led to the Age of Enlightenment and the advance of secularism are cleaner and more prosperous.
Castillo, Anna. So Far From God. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1993.