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The perfume stores on NW 20th Street in Allapattah are typically painted with bright colors. Tucked between discount clothing stores, they beckon with pink and orange exteriors as well as promises of bargains painted on their fronts.
Selene Perfumeria is less inviting. With it's gray façade, it looks like an extension of the window-tinting place it abuts. Employees enter using a room-length sliding-glass door, but no such option exists for potential customers. All curious onlookers can do is watch little old ladies manipulate tiny bottles with gnarled hands, engulfed by an overpowering scent of laundry detergent.
There's no way to get inside, excepting through a side door that's blocked by two industrial fans. And bypassing them means getting coated with Discharge. Literally.
That's one of the mystical baths and perfumes manufactured by Daniel Milian's company, along with Money Drawing, 7 Drops of Luck, and Destroy Everything.
If you've ever wondered where these occult objects found in the Magic City's bodegas and botanicas start their lives, Selene is one major source.
Fragrances are widely used in Santeria, a syncretic religion that came to Miami by way of West Africa and then Cuba. Since Santeria incorporates Catholicism, the idea of venerating "holy water" makes sense, and some practitioners bathe with Selene's products as part of their spiritual hygiene.
In fact, one mark of how widespread Santeria has become in Miami is how many of Selene's products have found their way into local grocery stores. Although Selene makes some pretty malevolent mixtures, only the posi-potions make it to Publix. Grocery shoppers won't find their "Law Stay Away" mix near the sub counter, but you can still purchase "7 African Powers" (the bottle does not specify which powers are included for $5.49).
Selene's products first came to a Publix Sabor store in Hialeah via customer request, says Kimberly Reynolds, a spokeswoman for the store. Ten locations now carry Selene's products, she says, and they are all in Miami-Dade.
So how effective are these potions? Milian wasn't too eager to chat about the mechanics of his potions' granting good fortune or attracting wealth, but he did tell Riptide that really, it's the thought that counts.
"The people who spray themselves with good luck whole-heartedly believe that they're going to be graced with good luck," he said in Spanish before shooing us out.