This past Friday, the building previously known as the B. Ruppe drug store was restored by arts organization Secret Gallery. The restoration’s initial launch took place during the ABQ Artwalk, incorporating local artists in and outside of thhe building. The B. Ruppe drug store initially opened its doors in 1883, its status in Albuquerque history canonized by curandera Maclovia Sanchez de Zamora. The building now functions as a contemporary gallery and museum dedicated to Zamora and the store.
A curandero/a is a practitioner of traditional Latin medicine. The Spanish word “curar” means “to cure,” hence curandera referencing someone that cures. Through a contemporary lens, now popularized things such as the evil eye (traditionally, the mal de ojo) have roots in early Latin esotericism. These roots are often overlooked in the name of profit, for example, reselling evil eye bracelets from Amazon at a much higher price discredits the entire sentiment and history behind the mal de ojo. However, Albuquerque proves again and again that its character is authentic, respectful, and celebratory of its heritage — it is in a small cadre of cities that continously and actively advocate for its heritage, as demonstrated by the recent vote against a harbigner of gentrification and wealth disparity.
Zamora became a renowned local healer, her vast knowledge of herbal medicine establishing the B. Ruppe as both a yerberia and a sort of active learning space. The recreation of this space is true to its previous form, herbs line the walls in satchets and jars exactly as an archived photo from the University of New Mexico shows them.
“It is so awesome to the respect that I think is due to our older curanderos and curanderas. Maestra Zamora is one of the greatest,” said Mercedes Reyes of holistic coffee company Bruja Coffe Co.
Through this faithful restoration, Barelas as a community proves that the history of curandera and Latin spirituality will not be forgotten, or whitewashed into something their ancestors wouldn’t recognize. While it may have been a coincidence, I found it thoughtful and resonant that this historically significant local landmark was brought back to life in such a beautiful way the week that the aforementioned stadium was dismissed by Albuquerque voters.
It is difficult to always be on the offensive, to actively live life against forces that aim to displace, monetize, and rewrite history. On Friday night, I found myself moved nearly to tears when I stood in front of the pictured altar of Zamora, impacted by the compassion and dedication involved in the altar and in creating this museum.
Outside of the areas dedicated to Zamora and B. Ruppe signage, several artists participating in the ABQ Artwalk were present and actively creating art. The smell of spray paint hung in the air, oil paints dried under the moonlight, and cotton candy and drinks were distributed.
(Please contact us if you know who created the altar, or who our Kahlo painter is. We received permission to photograph both, but did not get their contact information. We would love to credit them!)
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