Santiago de Cuba’s Magic Market

Published by first time in havanatimes.org

By: Taylor Torres.

Many are the beliefs from different cultures that merged to give rise to our Cuban identity. In Santiago de Cuba, one can breathe these beliefs in the idiosyncrasies of the locals, in the atmosphere of its steeply-inclined streets.

No few people in Santiago de Cuba hope to be lent a hand by these saints (or “orishas”) who accompany us every moment of our existence. To receive the “needed help,” one need always make an offering, bathe in a certain herb or make use of animals or eggs for a “cleansing.”

The ingredients for such “remedies” are usually hard to come by, but this is not the case in Santiago de Cuba. Locals know that, for a price, any of the needed ingredients can be found at the intersection of Marti Avenue and Moncada Street. There, they can find whatever they need to continue searching for happiness and feel immune to the “evil eye” (be it from a pigeon, turtle or chicken): holy water, oil with special powers and herbs to clear paths, overcome obstacles or defeat a rival, among other miraculous products. That magical market has it all.

Low-income people have found a means for them and their families to get by in these rudimentary kiosks. Walking down this street is an interesting experience, affording one the feeling of an immersion in authentic Cuban reality.

These photos seek to capture a day at this part of town and to invite readers to visit this unique market.

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