Lupa Miranda’s botanica shop in Mott Haven is one of only a few that remain in the South Bronx, featuring shelves lined with glass religious candles, spiritual oils and alternative medicines. It also offers customers something else – shoe repairs.
Miranda, 57, opened the business at 523 E. 138th St. in Mott Haven 27 years ago as a shoe repair shop. She married her husband Fermin Perez, 50, and taught him how to repair shoes so he could work with her. Eventually, she decided to add a botanica to the store. Now, the botanica is the main draw for most customers.
The couple’s store is filled with color in every direction. Crosses and paintings hang from the ceiling, and walls of vibrant oils run the length of the space. In the back sit decades-old metal machines for repairing shoes.
Botanicas typically sell herbal and other traditional remedies, along with spiritual items believed to produce positive outcomes such as financial gain, luck and love. They are particularly prevalent in Latin American and Caribbean communities.
“This is a beautiful, beautiful tradition for our culture,” said Perez. “As long as you have faith in what you’re doing and what you believe, that’s how it works.”
While many community members still frequent the shop, Perez said most botanicas in the South Bronx have disappeared because younger generations often don’t follow the traditions of their parents. When teenagers do come to the shop, he said, it is usually for items they hope will bring love or money into their lives.
But Perez said he isn’t worried.
“We plan to stay here for a long time. I wish I can stay 20, 30 years more, but who knows?”