Wednesday, April 25, 2007

La Botánica

I was raised in a botánica in the South Bronx where I was constantly surrounded by material culture of the Caribbean. I spent my childhood organizing large glass candles on shelves (carefully arranged by colors), filling jars with myrrh and herbs, and stocking pale-pink rosaries. The proprietor of the shop was my grandmother, Jerusalén, a Puerto Rican Espiritista healer, who offered her spiritual services to the large Caribbean community of the Bronx. My grandmother worked for the community, curing a range of ailments from seriously sick children to people who just wanted to change their luck. A botánica is, in the words of my grandmother, “a pharmacy for the soul”; it is a store common in Caribbean and Latina communities in the United States including Puerto Rico, which sells ritual paraphernalia from all over the Caribbean.

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