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A shop in Manchester nourishes the Día de Los Muertos altars of Latino homes

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Gaby Lozada
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NHPR
Luisa Jimenez holds a calavera, a Mexican symbol of the Day of the Dead.

Luisa Jimenez remembers her grandmother used to read tarot cards secretly in the Dominican Republic. Jimenez said that she was a woman of faith but also relied on some help from the magical world. She remembers her grandmother used herbs, prayers, and natural remedies to heal her family, so as she grew up, she got interested in that world too.

Jimenez arrived first in the U.S as a teenager and went to college to study business administration and psychology. Her mother came next, and looking for a business opportunity, she opened Botanica San Miguel in 2007. Both women realized there wasn’t a similar business in New Hampshire where people could find traditional and spiritual products that have significance in Latino cultures. But during the pandemic, Jimenez’s mom became afraid of dying from COVID and had planned on closing it.

“A lot of people come here broken, and we help them stand up again,” Jimenez said. That was her motivation to keep the store open and continue offering products to those who believe in the spiritual significance candles, essences, and powders. The shop smells like it could be in any country in Latin America, rich with flowers, herbs, and incense.

Every day, people from many countries come to her doors, “not only Latinos but even Russians and Bosnians,” she said. All are looking for comfort, better luck, or an answer to their problems. Jimenez uses her knowledge of psychology when she asks them about their difficulties.

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Gaby Lozada
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NHPR
At the register, an image of Yemanjá, a spirit from the Yoruba religion, welcomes the customers that offer her bracelets and money in a change of long life to their children and healing.

At this time of the year, Jimenez is busy selling goods for the Día de Los Muertos, Day of the Dead, a tradition celebrated across Latin America to remember the family and friends who have passed away.

Lining the walls are images of saints and virgins that people can use on their altars, which are tables with spiritual offerings. Jimenez brings down a Holy Death statue from one of the shelves, a crystal skeleton she holds tight in her arms. “It’s controversial; people are afraid of bringing it home or even looking at it,” she says.

She prepares her own Día de Los Muertos altar at the shop. She incorporates traditions she learned from the Dominican Republic and Mexico and thinks of her grandmother.

“People used to bring beer and cigarettes to the graves,” she remembers from her childhood in the Dominican Republic. She also recalls many flower arrangements in the cemeteries.

But many Latinos living in New Hampshire do not have the opportunity to return to their countries to honor their dead family, so Jimenez helps them put up an altar with candles, food, and flowers. Her shop also allows parents to teach their U.S.-born kids about their culture.

“They can set the table with water, beer, and other things the person enjoyed alive, " she said.

She dreams of opening a bigger store, but Jimenez says it’s been hard to get a loan from a bank that trusts that this is a legitimate business that serves a portion of the population that believes in this. By offering these goods in New Hampshire, Jimenez says she hopes this helps people stay close to this tradition – even if they are far away from home.

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Gaby Lozada
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NHPR
Jimenez says she has an altar at home with more than 50 images of saints; she put a small version at the shop.

Gabriela Lozada is a Report for America corps member. Her focus is on Latinx community with original reporting done in Spanish for ¿Qué hay de Nuevo NH?.