IS VISITING MEXICO CITY’S SONORA MARKET SPIRITUAL APPROPRIATION?

On a solo journey of spiritual self-discovery in Mexico, Danielle Dorsey decided NOT to visit the famously witchy Sonora Market. She explains why …

Mexico City’s Sonora Market was up there as I had compiled a list of the city’s witchiest landmarks to visit during my two-week stay. The sprawling bazaar is famous for being the largest market dedicated to witchcraft in the country, offering patrons everything from tarot readings to limpias (or spiritual cleansing), banishments, love potions, and more. Earlier in my spiritual journey, I likely would have sated my curiosity and went, but the more I learned about the market’s offerings—which range from healing arts to the darkest magic imaginable—the less inclined I felt to go.

One obvious reason to take precaution before visiting the Sonora Market is its location. Nestled in the historic La Merced neighborhood, the market and its surrounding areas suffer from higher crime rates and poverty. Although generally safe during the day, those who stand out as tourists are more likely to be targeted for theft and scams.

Along with candles, herbs, and other trinkets for your spells, you’ll also find vendors selling animals in various states—taxidermied, encapsulated in liquids, or even alive (and often malnourished). Each vendor is its own business, so supporting a tarot reader who happens to be working there does not necessarily equate to endorsing animal abuse, but still I felt cautious about the volatile energies that might be encountered in such a space.

For all intents and purposes, the Sonora Market is an energetic vortex, where one can cleanse themselves of suffering at one booth and then curse someone at the next. For anybody not familiar with how to protect themselves with such conflicting energies at play, it could be easy to fall victim of a psychic attack.

I spoke with Shannon O’Neill-Loyola of Radical Reiki, who currently lives near Mexico City and has familial ties to the region that trace back for centuries. She told me that, “Aside from the fact that there’s dark magic, I won’t go because of the polarization of forces that occurs there. It attracts so many lower entities and earthbound souls who will do anything to latch onto anyone who has an opening in their auric field. People go there out of novelty, and with a superficial view of magic, and don’t realize how impactful these rituals and ceremonies are. Ultimately, this shows a lack of respect, and people who visit as ‘spiritual tourists’ don’t realize that they may leave with attachments.”

Mercado de Sonora México DF 20 04 07.jpg
Offerings on display at Mercado de Sonora. Photo: Maurice Marcellin 

Another reason I decided to pass on the Sonora Market is my wariness of casual tourism through others’ sacred belief systems. One of the best things about social media and the internet are their ability to connect us to cultures and people all over the world, but it’s also easy to trick ourselves into believing that we are more familiar with these practices than we actually are. We might mistake watching a video of a sacred ceremony with being qualified to host our own, even though we have no ties to that culture or deeper understanding of what it represents. Not only is this appropriative and intrusive, it belittles the spirituality of those that we are borrowing from.

When you take into account the different intersections of privilege and the historical oppression of certain cultures whose rituals are now being profiled by Vogue et al., it becomes even more vital that—if and when we participate—we make an effort to do so with intention and respect. That might mean sacrificing an Insta-worthy picture of creepy Santa Muerte statues and respecting the merchant’s request to keep your phone in your pocket. It might also mean that if your Spanish isn’t advanced enough to have a genuine conversation about someone’s offerings and what they can do for you, it might not be the right time to visit.

A good rule of thumb for distinguishing cultural appreciation from appropriation, is that appreciation typically includes an invitation to participate. If you’re truly interested in learning from Mexican brujas or brujos, you’ll have to foster a genuine relationship and prove that your interest stems from more than simply colonizing their beliefs. This might be difficult to achieve if you’re only visiting for a week or two. There’s also a chance you could approach somebody in a completely respectful manner, and they still won’t be interested in mentoring you. Remember that no one owes you their labor, spiritual or otherwise.

However, this doesn’t mean that spiritual enlightenment isn’t awaiting you in Mexico. If you’re looking for spellcraft items, you’re likely to find a few botanicas in just about any neighborhood market or tiangui, which are weekly pop-up markets that occur all over Mexico City. I also recommend a visit to White Willow Cafe in the Roma Norte neighborhood, which hosts weekly tarot and other mystical workshops.

Mexico is a country with a rich history and the same wisdom you are seeking from a bruja or brujo can also be found by simply tuning into the energy of the land. I was surprised at the downloads that came through during a few minutes of meditation at the ancient ruins of Teotihuacan, located just an hour outside of Mexico City. I had a similar experience in Frida Kahlo’s house and was struck with visions as I toured her bedrooms and kitchen, leading me to spend some time journaling in her garden. Even during long bus rides, I found myself bulldozed by spiritual insights while my eyes drunk in the gorgeous countryside.

If you do decide to visit Mexico City’s Sonora Market, take appropriate measures to protect your energy. As with anything else, do research so that you can be sure of what services you’re asking for and don’t get taken advantage of. Meditate and ground yourself before embarking on that trip. Slip a black tourmaline or obsidian crystal into your pocket to ward off negativity and envision yourself in an impenetrable bubble that one must be invited inside.

If, like me, you’d rather be safe than sorry, there are plenty of other ways to find spiritual healing in Mexico without putting yourself at the mercy of such potent energetic forces and engaging in spiritual appropriation.

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Danielle Dorsey is a content creator, publicist, copy editor, social media coordinator, and event planner. Read more from her at Danielledorky.com and follow her on Instagram

A SENSORY EXPLORATION OF ARIES SEASON


Hello Aries Season! Explore the current cosmic energies with Cara George & Bess Matassa of Mojave Rising… Artwork: Paulius Zakarauskas

Aries season conjures the scent of gasoline, the sound of tires screeching, and the full-throttle feeling of all-or-nothing, pedal to the metal, ferocious selfhood. Yet under the hood of this badass muscle car momma is a curious kind of fuel: innocence. It’s the wide-eyed, open-hearted belief that we have the right to be exactly as we are and that every damn moment is a moment to begin again. We simply cannot stop our own becoming.

Keyword: Collision.

Lyrics: “Being is believing/Take your passion/And make it happen/I can have it all/Now I’m dancing through my life.”

Check out our full Aries Season playlist here, complete with unapologetic cock rock, pure guileless pop, and relentless disco beats.

Color palette: Emboldened, saturated hues that mix Mexico City with Nascar primaries. Explode into a technicolor spring bloom, as you find yourself at the starting line once again.

Image: Alexander Neumann

Style: A rugged, kinetic beauty that pairs motorcycle boots with chrome and solid gold accessories, and fashion that walks the line between in-your-face antics and stripped down minimalism: disco-fied jumpsuits, coral unitards, bare nails, and sun-streaked hair.

Image: Nasty Gal

Scents: Clean, direct, and spicy sweet. Scorching summer sidewalk pavement after a thunderstorm, cedarwood meets pungent jasmine, classic men’s “fougère” barber shop scents, fresh cut grass, dirt, and matches.

Eau Savage by Christian Dior

Healing: Sweat-drenched body movement. Try a high-intensity hip-hop or pole class. Dance until you sweat and then dance some more. Or strap on your most comfortably sexy kicks and hit the city streets for some serious strutting set to your own soundtrack. Walk and walk and walk until you can feel every muscle in your body alive and electric. Buy yourself a coco helado along the way.

Image: Tommy Ton

ARIES SEASON BY SIGN :: FLAVOR PAIRINGS 

During this Aries season, the heavy hitting survival trio of Pluto, Saturn, and Mars are all stationing retrograde and with this comes a sweet, float-like-a-butterfly feeling of absolutely nothing more to prove. It’s a soul survival moment where we each stand so fiercely and earnestly in our disco dancefloor essence, that we begin to collide gently with one-another.

This makes it a month for fusion cuisine that celebrates singularly wild flavors as they collide and cross-pollinate on cutting boards, in ovens, and along sumptuous Vegas buffet tables. So leap into the frying pan and light a match.

Aries :: Aries Rising
Sink your teeth into flavors that feel good as they burn. Think chili pepper dark chocolate, salted caramel, sweet and smoky mesquite, and red hot candies. Or, visit your local ice cream truck, and celebrate your birthday month with open-hearted sprinkle combinations and badass bomb pops.

Taurus :: Taurus Rising
Turn up the heat with slow-roasted vegetables or pair bitter dandelion greens with sweet balsamic glaze as you infuse your earthbound sensibilities with a little tangy sharpness. Take your picnic on the road as you explore the concept of being nourished as you travel through life.

Gemini :: Taurus Rising
Visit your local farmer’s market or spice shop and experiment with choosing one special ingredient or spice variation to build a meal around. Or blend your own spice combo as you honor each distinctive element of a home-made curry paste or za’atar.

Cancer :: Cancer Rising
Think fresh bread with rosemary infused olive oil and sea salt. Or plan a progressive dinner party with friends where you sample a new dish at each house as you explore the notion of mobile shelters and the internal emotional landscape of each other’s homes.

Leo :: Leo Rising
Celebrate the sun-drenched, succulent flavors of ripe, roasted tomatoes and peppers, contrasted with the sensation of biting into the slightly tough skin. Think guacamole, sun-dried tomatoes, and nopales street tacos.

Virgo :: Virgo Rising
Dive into wild collisions of ingredients as you abandon your measuring cups and prepare a stew without even tasting it along the way. Or go back to basics with three ingredient meals. Trust in flour, water, salt, and your own immeasurable worth.

Libra :: Libra Rising
Practice dining alone and savoring the sensation of solitary feasting. Move into messiness as you leave the dishes for tomorrow or dig into difficult food like sloppy joes and chili cheese fries.

Scorpio :: Scorpio Rising
Sample creamy, fluffy flavors as you relax into a brand of power that feels exuberant and delicious. Think fresh, warm milk infused with punchy cardamom and rosewater, and the scrumptious sensations of cotton candy, flavored foam, and bubble gum.

Sagittarius :: Sagittarius Rising
Contrast your wildfire in a backyard barbecue, and fuse exploratory urges with committed pragmatism as you chop, drink, and eat the entire contents of a coconut. Search out “on-the-go” snacks that are also protein-rich and grounding; think primal strips or Vietnamese bahn mi.

Capricorn :: Capricorn Rising
Experiment with a long, slow, proper mirepoix as the foundation for a nourishing meal. Infuse potent flavors of the natural world like garlic, onions, and ginger, that blend these cardinal signs’ self-sufficiency with Aries’ vigorous joy. Push against limitation and celebrate a little healthy excess with a chocolate box or sumptuous buffet.

Aquarius :: Aquarius Rising
Sink your teeth into stick to flavors that pair unexpected Aquarian tastes with hearty Aries foodstuffs. Think a falafel sandwich with tahini sauce and pickled turnips, or a grilling party with your tribe complete with exotic veggies.

Pisces :: Pisces Rising
This month’s energy speaks to fresh translucence and herbaceous flavors that blend Piscean fusion with Aries particularity. Think cucumber water, flavored honeys, or rose kombucha. Or enjoy a lime and chili paleta as you celebrate mutable melting and the self-contained strength to savor it all on the way down.