With our latest installment of Street Sense, our on-the-ground photographer Sean Maung continues to investigate pocketed-areas of culture within New York City, exploring what makes these city neighborhoods so deep and varied. Combining his photo documentary with audio recording, Sean shows a deeper narrative into the colorful nature of Santeria culture, and their religious practices at their Botanica storefronts.
"Botanicas practice a religion called "Santeria". It was created in Cuba during colonization and slavery. It's unique in that it's a synthesis of two religions, combining sacrifice rituals to West African Yoruban deities, along with the worship of Catholic saints, brought in by Spainsh colonizers. I would always see these Santeria shops in Bushwick — I would go in there sometimes for their many candles, laminated saint cards, incense. They carry everything, including herbs and potions for cleansing, they offer ceremonial meetings in the basement, providing readings and consultantions, sacrifices.
Places like these have so much character to them. While many storefronts were skeptical to me, as photography and spirituality are difficult to mix, I walked into this shop as the owner was about to perform a sacrifice ritual, and for some reason he was really open and approachable. He took me down to their basement where ceremonies take place — the murals are all saint that they pray to there."