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The East End: Mystical Yerberias

All around the East End neighborhood of Houston, you’ll notice stores with an enigmatic name: Yerberia. Familiar in Mexican communities, Yerberias offer remedies for health, personal—even legal problems.

It’s the first of the KUHF NewsLab’s series, “Exploring Houston” where we journey through the neighborhoods that make up our city.


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“Right behind me we have the spiritual oils, like for love, for protection, for health, for success…”

In Rosario’s Mistic on Canal Street in the East End, you’ll find shelves filled with hundreds of different candles, oils, herbs and amulets.? People come here for everything from stomach aches to love lost to ridding your house of bad spirits.? Maria Rosario Garcia is the third generation owner of a yerberia, or herbal medicine and mystic store.? If you’re having a problem with love, she’ll offer remedies that come from her grandmother, Mama Panchita of Nuevo Laredo, Mexico.

“I will recommend that you buy jasmine flowers, boil them, and add violet fragrance. Rinse your body with it. And then you light a little candle to do your prayer for love.”

All around the store are images of Jesus on the cross, angels with halos, statues of Death and even Buddha.? What Garcia does is deeply rooted in Catholicism, but has influences from Santeria and other cultures.? But she rejects names like “witch”.

“There is a difference in being a witch and being a spiritual healer. I was raised in the Catholic church. I always believe that karma, God, help people.”

“There’s nothing else that you have?”
“Ese es el mas puro…”

Teresa Herrera’s back hurts, and her daughter is having panic attacks. She’s tried regular medicine, but says she came here because the back oil worked before, and because she’s religious-not Catholic, but a believer in God.

“They give you medicine for panic attacks, that just takes care of it right now, that doesn’t take care of the future. So this is more secure protection for my heart and head that she’ll be alright.”

Garcia believes it works for her-at the casino.? She once made $19,000 in one night, and posts pictures of all her payouts.

“I light my little candle, do my prayer for gambling. And then I play on the lucky hours. And that’s when I hit.”

“En Haiti, a s’appelle “paystille”. Ahi on peut voir les esprits…”

On the other end of Canal Street sits Yerberia y Centro Espiritual “Haiti”.? Henry “Chu Chu” Hilaire mixes the Mexican customs of the other yerberias with his own Haitian voodoo.? In the back, there’s a dim room filled with portraits of Jesus, tall candles, and-that’s right-voodoo dolls, skulls, and even bowls filled with flour and an egg. Hilaire shows his clients how to perform rituals to answer their prayers, but says it’s different for every person:

“It’s a secret. It’s not for me. It’s for the people.? The people who come have to perform what they want.”

Hilaire has been practicing voodoo in Houston for 16 years. Along with health, work, and love concerns, he sees a lot of people with legal problems.? He says that people come to him when other methods haven’t worked.

“Sometimes they go to the hospital first.? When they see that things are getting complicated, they look for another way.? This happens to a lot of people.? And I cure them.”

It’s easy to see why someone might call this black magic. But to people who object, Hilaire answers:

“They can say what they want. They’re going to say that because they don’t have problems yet.? But when they have problems, it doesn’t matter when color the magic is. They’re desperate, boom, and they come.”

They come to a yerberia to find what they can’t get anywhere else.

From the KUHF NewsLab, I’m Melissa Galvez.

View photos on Flickr