Pilsen

Centro Botanico Guadalupano

Centro Botanico Guadalupano

Introduction

The awning of the store is green, white and red, the colors of the Mexican flag. Upon entry, the left side of the store is lined with containers of dried herbs, leaves, and bark. On the right there are clear glass countertops containing herbal supplements and remedies in capsule forms. There is a large display of prayer candles, statues of Catholic saints, as well as incense, soaps, and oils. Most of the bottles and boxes had Spanish lettering, some even depicting Native Americans, Aztec and Maya landscapes and architecture, and Asian religious deities such as Buddha. While the botanica did sell many traditional herbs and plants, this establishment bordered the line between traditional healing goods and general pharmaceutical products.

Further inside the store beyond the herbs and prepackaged remedies were familiar pharmaceutical remedies for common ailments including aspirin, gauze, cough syrup, band aids, and allergy medication. There were also some posters and books about Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) as well as bottles of pills for important products in TCM like ginseng. Toward the back of the store was a shelf containing votive candles with various Catholic Saints depicted in addition to Saint’s pins and pendants within a glass case. Small wood and brass statues on a back glass counter depicted Native American figures, Buddha, and Jesus. Centro Botanico Guadalupano is an excellent example of how botanicas offer a mix cultural herbal lore from a variety of backgrounds.

Centro Botanico Guadalupano (CBG) has been operated by the same person for the past 25 years in Pilsen though they changed location two years ago. A framed FDA certificate and the owner’s pharmaceutical training certificate from Mexico are displayed. The majority of their herbs come from all over Mexico including Jalisco, Guerrero, Zacatecas, Michoacan, and Guanajuato. They also get many herbs from India, Brazil, and Perú through a provider in the U.S.They fill mail order for customers in Iowa, Michigan, Georgia, and people visit the Pilsen store from all over the Chicago area and the Illinois/Michigan/Indiana/Wisconsin region.

 

Popular Purchases and Remedies

The owner of Centro Botanico Guadalupano is well-versed in the properties of the herbs sold in store. He said that most people come in and describe what their symptoms are and him and the other workers will recommend certain herbs to boil and drink the tea. If the herbs do not work, they will move on to other options. In many instances customers know what they want and ask for it by name. Some common remedies sold include valerian root for the nervous system, arnica for to treat blood clots and bruises, and St. Johns Wort for mood and overall circulatory wellbeing.

A container of dried arnica flower commonly used as for inflammation.
A container of dried arnica flower commonly used as for inflammation.

CBG has shelves lined with prayer candles near the canisters containing bark. Unprepared candles cost $2, but for $5 the owner says special prayers over the candles, sometimes burning incense for a particular need or purpose that a customer has specified. The most common requests are for employment and financial concerns - a debt owed, a loan they would like to collect from a friend or family member, or a favorable ruling in court cases.

The store also has a section containing several pentagrams and the Buddhas and Ganeshas for believers in “black magic.” The owner’s son said that the Santa Muerte’s cult is growing rapidly amongst college age students, who buy statues and votives in her honor. Santa Muerte ("Holy Death") is a female folk saint associated with healing popular in Mexico and parts of the United States.

To learn more about popular purchases and remedies at Centro Botanico Guadalupano, see the collections gallery.

 

Ana Croegaert receives a prescription for stress (July 1st, 2011)

“I went up to one of [the workers] and asked if he had anything he could recommend for when your family is stressing you out. He guided me over to the clear plastic canisters of herbs. Stashed in two spots on opposing ends in the middle of the collection of canisters were two boxes of Ziploc baggies. He said he would recommend I prepare my own tea from magnolia flower and linden flower in their bark forms. He explained that I should use two pinches of bark for every liter of water - the bark is very potent. He said I should first boil water; once it boils I should sustain the heat and add herbs - then make sure reaches a boil again before reducing the temperature and letting it steep. He said I should drink it all day long.”

Left: A linden tree. Right: A magnolia tree.
Left: A linden tree. Right: A magnolia tree.

  • Amulets and Candles
    The top of the wall contains amulets; the shelves below contain candles.
  • Amulets and Candles
  • Amulets and Candles
  • Amulets and Candles
  • Amulets and Candles
  • Inside Centro Botanico Guadalupano
  • Inside Centro Botanico Guadalupano
  • Inside Centro Botanico Guadalupano
  • Inside Centro Botanico Guadalupano
  • Inside Centro Botanico Guadalupano
  • Inside Centro Botanico Guadalupano
  • Inside Centro Botanico Guadalupano
  • Inside Centro Botanico Guadalupano
    CBG's boxed teas are left of the counter filled with all sorts of packages herbal and natural remedies.
  • Inside Centro Botanico Guadalupano
    Canisters of loose herbs. Behind the canisters are other pre-packaged remedies including CBG's boxed teas.
  • Inside Centro Botanico Guadalupano
    A local artist painted this mural for the store shortly after the store was open. (Store opened in 1979). Jose Jr. does not remember the artist's name, but he recently came into the store. The artist was not commissioned; just inspired to create this for the store. The idealized images of nature and nature's bounty create a pleasant atmosphere in the store.
  • Inside Centro Botanico Guadalupano
  • Inside Centro Botanico Guadalupano
    The owner’s son scoops out dried chamomile to create an herbal mix for a cleansing bath. To see the packaged bath, see the collections gallery.
  • Inside Centro Botanico Guadalupano
    CBG’s documents of herbal remedies for different, common maladies.
  • Inside Centro Botanico Guadalupano
    The orange supplements on the shelf in rear are the brand NOW also sold at Whole Foods. These supplements are popular among the gentrifying residents of Pilsen.
  • Inside Centro Botanico Guadalupano
    Spiritual Section. The owner’s son asked me not to photograph the La Santa Muerte artifacts, which fill the entire section not pictured at right. He said the saint is temperamental and finicky. There was definitely a bit of fear and apprehension in his voice when talking about her. He says this "cult" surrounding the La Santa Muerte is gaining rapidly in popularity among Mexican youth and young adults.
  • Inside Centro Botanico Guadalupano
    Oils used in spiritual rituals line the back shelf of the store. Native America, Catholic, Buddhist, Mexican, and other beliefs are represented in the spiritual section.
  • Inside Centro Botanico Guadalupano
  • Inside Centro Botanico Guadalupano
  • Inside Centro Botanico Guadalupano
  • Inside Centro Botanico Guadalupano
    The store sells all sorts of Spanish language spiritual and natural lifestyle books. Here's the spread in one book case.
  • Inside Centro Botanico Guadalupano
    Natural hair dye.

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