Male Garlic, Other Talismans, Carried for Luck

Garlic is used to attract positive energy. (Photo via Diario de Mexico)

Garlic is used to attract positive energy. (Photo via Diario de Mexico)

Mexican saints, reliquaries, amulets, and talismans have begun to form part of the landscape in Hudson County towns with Hispanic populations. These religious objects appeal not only to paisanos [Mexicans], but to other Latinos as well.

“Not many Mexicans come here; the paisano community isn’t very big, but I sell around 40 icons of the Santa Muerte to paisanos, and of course, many more of the Virgen de Guadalupe. Everybody buys that one because she is the patron saint of the Americas,” said Gabriela García, who works at the herb shop La Nueva Milagrosa on the border between Union City and West New York, an area with a majority Latino population.

Some products believed to bring good luck are imported directly from Mexico. One example is the ajo macho [“male” garlic], which is usually rounder and bigger than the kinds of garlic used for cooking.

“My wife carries it in her purse to bring good luck, and I put one in my pants pocket to attract money. It’s very common in our culture,” said Clemente Díaz from the Mexican state of Puebla. He lives in Union City.

Keeping envy at bay

Other items that keep envy and bad luck at bay, such as bracelets with skulls, are typical in Mexico and very much in demand among those who follow these traditional Mexican customs.

However, a glance at other herb shops in the surrounding areas reveals that customers mostly desire votive candles with images of Juan Diego and La Morenita del Tepeyac.

“We had one of our biggest candle sales ever after the Virgin de Guadalupe appeared on a small tree at 60th Street and Bergenline Avenue [in West New York]. That was unstoppable,” said an herb shop employee.

Worshipping the Virgin of the Tree Trunk

Worshipping God with devotion and ignoring the sounds of busy Bergenline Avenue in West New York, New Jersey, hundreds of Latinos pray to the image of the Virgen de Guadalupe for help to get through tough times or to make a right decision. The patron saint appeared last year and is widely venerated by the whole community in New Jersey and the surrounding areas.

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