Step Inside the Smoke-Filled Witchcraft Market of Mexico City
The Sonora Market is a sprawling bazaar dedicated to witchcraft, sex, potions, and rituals.
All images by Erin Lee Holland
In the historic center of Mexico City is Mercado Merced, an entire neighborhood that functions as one of the city's biggest retail and food markets. At the heart of the market is the Mercado Sonora, a rambling, technicolor sector devoted to brujería or witchcraft. Signs pegged above the tiny aisles stacked to the ceiling claim to have solutions to all your problems, no matter how grave they may be.
The merchandise on hand caters to all different sects of magic and Santeria. There are statues for worship of Santa Muerte (the Saint of Death), or Malverde (the Saint of Narcos) as well as totems, potions, herbs, and dolls for the practice of Shamanism, Black Magic, or White Magic. There are around 400 witches and shamans on hand to offer their services, such as Spanish tarot, Egyptian tarot, Santa Muerte readings, ouija board sessions, and cleansings to keep you safe from harm.
Over a tarot card session, Leia, who works as a bruja, or white witch, tells me, "People come here for three reasons; to be lucky in love, to have good health and to get an abundance of money."
The largest range of products available is aimed at finding or keeping love, potions and lotions with names such as Atrapahombres (Trap Men), Ven a Mi (Come to Me), Amansa Guapos (Tame Handsome Men), and Rompe Colchón (Break the Mattress). There are also other things like tobaccos, candles, shampoos, soaps, teas, amulets, and voodoo dolls, and tools for all kinds of spells that range from fixing your car to getting a new job or taking revenge on your enemies. There is also a section that sells live animals; some are endangered and exotic species. One of the vendors casually tells me, "Yeah, sometimes the police raid the market to see what's out the back."
For $10, I was given a tarot session in which the bruja assured me that I would get married very soon. For another $8, I was allowed to witness a cleansing done with herbs, tobacco, and mezcal (a distilled alcoholic beverage made from the agave plant)—if I had been on the other side of the camera, it would have guaranteed me ease in all life's difficult problems in health, love, business, and cars. Whatever you need, Mercado Sonora has the right dose.