Botanica Negra Francisca
Photo by Kristin Bjørnsen

Along Calle Ocho's tourist trail, shops lure folks inside with wafts of cigar tobacco and the enticing beat of the rumba, but the inconspicuous Botanica Negra Francisca doesn't need to rely on those tricks. They're counting on your spirit guides to subconsciously move you through the door. Owned by a warm, welcoming family of Santería practitioners, this botanica never makes visitors feel awkward or unwanted even if they're unfamiliar with Cuba's fascinating syncretic religion. Instead, an employee will ask you why you're visiting and whether you're looking for anything in particular (be it an antidote to your latest heartbreak or a special candle to secure a promotion at work). For a small shop, it's stocked full of beads, necklaces, bracelets, perfumes and colognes, and an entire wall of votive candles dedicated to Ogunn, Eleggua, Babalú Ayé, and any other orisha with whom you may need to commune. As Brickell and the Roads push ever east into Little Havana, Negra Francisca is one of the last botanicas still standing amid the gentrification of their sacred hood.

There are two reasons people go to psychics: as a lark, usually after a few drinks, or because they're genuinely searching for something. What they're trying to find varies and perhaps remains a mystery even to the seeker. But for those who didn't just stumble out of happy hour, going to a psychic can be therapeutic. Whether the spiel coming out of a psychic's mouth is a parlor trick or prophecy is really irrelevant. What matters is the result. At 9th Chakra, just off Lincoln Road, Maria is a psychic who specializes in tarot card readings. The 75-year-old Puerto Rican is as comforting as a wise grandmother. Though she does most of the talking during a live session — which runs $70 for a half-hour — she is one of those people who naturally inspires others to open up. It's a skill set crucial to her line of work. Her readings are in Spanish, which makes the experience all the more authentically Miami, but the shop makes translators available for English-speaking clients. Maria got into her line of work when she was only 12 years old. From a very young age, she saw the faces of the dead, she says. Believing her claims are as much an act of faith as believing in the doctrines of any organized religion. What is certain is that after some gentle prodding, she urges her listeners to take action, make some changes, or, at the very least, take time to meditate and reflect upon their lives and inner turmoil. None of this is supernatural or otherworldly; it's just good advice.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®