Meet: Noel Estrada
For many Latino’s, Botánicas have been a sanctuary for those in spiritual crisis or in need of guidance and healing. Considered as commonplace in Hispanic communities as a Starbucks or a Walgreen’s, Botánicas could often be found in many areas throughout the boroughs, except for Staten Island . Noel Estrada, a Puerto Rican Spiritual Consultant and owner of Botánica Yemalla Ochun Oya, wanted to change that. Originally based in Brooklyn, but living in Staten Island for many years, he wanted to better serve his friends and neighbors who were often forced to trek over the bridge in search of religious supplies and spiritual advice. Closing down his shop in Brooklyn and relocating to Staten Island he’s been helping the Hispanic community for the last two years by giving spiritual counsel, cleansings or just a point in the right direction. Stop by and you will find he is well stocked with religious articles, saints, candles, herbs and charms. Noel can often be found standing behind the counter chatting with a customer or more likely giving a reading in the back of his store while his cat Garfield stands guard out front. He’ll see anyone who walks in but strongly encourages that you call ahead for an appointment.
Q-How long have you been a spiritual Consultant?
I’ve been a spiritual consultant for thirty years.
Q- What made you get into Spiritual Consultation?
Religion is something that has always caught my attention. Maybe because I grew within the whole religious spectrum of spiritualism. It was always there since I was a kid.
Q: What kind of business do you run?
I am the owner of this business, which is a religious article store.
Q: You used to own a Botanica in Brooklyn ?
Yes. I was in Brooklyn in my business for over twenty years.
Q: Why did you open a Botanica in Staten Island ?
The need for a store like this in Staten Island was great. A lot of people in Staten Island used to come to my Botanica in Brooklyn . Seeing how so many people from Staten Island were coming here, that’s when I got the idea to move. I just needed to find the right location, which I did, so I moved my store here and closed the one in Brooklyn .
Q: Do you believe there is a great need for Spiritualism within the Staten Island Latino community?
Spiritualism is something that comes from belief of religions and cultures. People have to realize that the reason why spirituality was so closed before was because there was a widespread of discrimination. People used to keep their mouth shut and practice privately. Now it’s out in the world and people have a better understanding.
Q: How have people accepted you since you’ve opened?
They were amazed and happy that this kind of store opened in this area. The people that come from different parts of Staten Island they are super happy because now they don’t have to come across any bridge to go and get the religious articles that they need. They can come down here and that’s it.
Q: How do you help people?
I help them with spiritually advising. I do spiritual readings. That is done with the conch shells which is something that has been done in Africa for years. Whatever spiritual needs they need. I try to resolve or help them resolve their family problems, personal problems, things of that nature.
Q: Why do you read people with conch shells?
That comes from the Yoruba, something I am a part of. Reading is a part of their life, their culture. It’s not a religion in Africa . It’s a way of living. When a child is born, it is presented to their higher priest where the priest reads the child spiritually so they can determine (child’s) way of living so they know what has to be done to help guide this child so he can have a good life.
Q: Do you believe there is any prejudice in Staten Island regarding this type of spiritual practice?
Well I guess that is something that has always been. Not only in Staten Island but also in many parts of the United States . I say it’s just the lack of understanding. Bad-mouthing about different spiritual religions, cultures. People don’t understand. One day they will learn and begin to understand. Then they will change their minds.
Q: What advise would you give to those interested in learning spirituality?
Have an open mind. Read books. Don’t just read one book and base your beliefs on that book. The more research the better. The more they question and the more they research with an open mind and see reality the way it is, they will have a better understanding and judgment. Get closer to it.
Botánica Yemalla Ochun Oya
204 Port Richmond Ave
Staten Island, NY 10303