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Logan Square, Humboldt Park, Avondale

Humboldt Park ‘Sanctuary’ Botanica Victoria Reopens After 2-Year Pandemic Closure With A New Look

Owner Rosalinda Taufique almost died from COVID-19 in 2020. Now, Taufique is back doing what she loves: selling herbal remedies and religious figurines out of her Humboldt Park shop, thanks to her daughter.

Victoria Taufique shows off the candles at the newly upgraded and reopened Botanica Victoria in Humboldt Park on June 27, 2022.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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HUMBOLDT PARK — Rosalinda Taufique, the owner of longtime Humboldt Park shop Botanica Victoria, was hospitalized with COVID-19 at the start of the pandemic.

Taufique, then 64, spent March 2020 in the hospital alone, fighting for her life, said her daughter, Alejandra Cano.

“When people would get dropped off at the hospital entrance, you don’t know if you’re going to see your loved one again or not. That was probably the hardest part,” Cano said.

Cano was forced to closed Botanica Victoria — her mother’s pride and joy — amid the city shutdown. It felt like the end for the family business, a place that had been at the center of their lives for three decades, Cano said. Botánicas are religious goods stores with roots in Latino and Afro-Latino communities.

But when Taufique recovered, it became clear the matriarch wasn’t ready to retire, Cano said. While Taufique was in rehab relearning to walk, Cano and her kids — Taufique’s grandkids — devised a plan to revive the business and carry on the family’s legacy.

“I told her, ‘Look, if you want, you don’t have to continue working. We can get you a house. You can relax.’ And she was just dead-set on going back to work and serving her community and being where she feels is her home,” Cano said.

A fully renovated Botanica Victoria reopened last weekend at 2510 W. Division St. after a two-year closure. Taufique’s back behind the counter, selling herbal remedies, crystals, religious figurines and more.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Spices and herbs for sale at the newly upgraded and reopened Botanica Victoria in Humboldt Park on June 27, 2022.

Before the renovation, the store was packed with a jumble of statues of the Virgin Mary, crucifixes, candles and supplies meant to bring good fortune. But now, the store’s products are neatly arranged on sleek shelves. There’s a wall of herbs in apothecary jars. Crystals are displayed in a built-in and in a glass case at the counter.

Taufique, who goes by her middle name Victoria, said she wasn’t sure about the renovation when she first saw it, mainly because she hadn’t been in the store for two years. But now that she’s settled in, she’s thrilled for the store’s next chapter, she said.

This year is Botanica Victoria’s 30th anniversary, but the Division Street space has been home to a botánica for about 50 years.

“I want to support the local community, and I want to stay here because we’ve been such an integral part of the community. … I don’t treat my customers just like customers; I treat them like family,” Taufique said in Spanish.

‘She’s Always Been There For Us’

In the late 1980s, Taufique immigrated to Chicago from Mexico City with a 4-year-old Cano and worked for her aunt’s long-standing botánica in Wicker Park, Botanica San Miguel.

Taufique opened Botanica Victoria on Division Street in 1992, drawing on her family’s years of experience running botánicas and other spiritual businesses in the United States and Mexico.

Botanica Victoria has been a fixture of Humboldt Park ever since; so has Taufique, whose family lives in the apartment upstairs. Cano’s eldest kids, 22 and 18, have helped at the small shop since they were young.

“It’s not something that’s popped up out of nowhere. This is something that’s been in our family for generations,” Cano said.

The store’s customer base changed as Humboldt Park gentrified, Taufique said. The store used to attract mostly Latino and Black customers, and now it attracts people from a mix of racial backgrounds, she said.

Cano said the neighborhood’s demographic shift was part of what inspired her to overhaul the business and give it a fresh look.

The renovation, which took about a year and a half to complete, was a gut job. Cano, an emergency room doctor now based in Houston, paid for a modern facade, along with new lighting, shelving and flooring. Behind the register is an all-stone backdrop.

“For me personally, it was a way for me not only to give back to my mom, but also make Paseo Boricua a little bit nicer and continue investing in my community,” Cano said.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Evan Cano helps bring a statue of the Virgin Mary down for owner Rosalinda Taufique at the newly upgraded and reopened Botanica Victoria in Humboldt Park on June 27, 2022.

When Taufique was seriously ill with COVID-19, she was intubated at the hospital. She still has a few symptoms, such as fatigue and difficulty swallowing, Cano said. Her underlying conditions include diabetes, obesity and hyperlipidemia.

But Cano said her mother has greatly improved since her bout with the virus.

During store hours on Monday, Taufique eagerly showed off essential oils, crystals and other products and explained the healing properties of each one to a Block Club reporter as her 22-year-old grandson, Evan Cano, helped out behind the counter.

Herbal remedies predate European colonial times, Taufique said, as Indigenous people treated diseases with plants.

Longtime customer Mario Flores stopped in Monday to pick up a few things and to see Taufique, who he described as a “mother” figure in his life.

Many in the community were worried about Taufique when she was sick, Flores said. When Botanica Victoria closed, it left a hole in the neighborhood, he said.

“She’s part of the neighborhood. Everybody comes here. … We’ve all got stuff from here,” Flores said.

Flores came into the store after losing his own mother, which is typical of botánica customers. To honor her, Taufique gave Flores an Our Lady of Guadalupe candle free.

“It’s a sanctuary for us,” Flores said. “She’s always been there for us, especially when we need some spiritual help. She helps a lot.”

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Spices and herbs for sale at the newly upgraded and reopened Botanica Victoria in Humboldt Park on June 27, 2022.
Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Family photos of the matriarchs of Rosalinda Taufique’s family at the newly upgraded and reopened Botanica Victoria in Humboldt Park on June 27, 2022.
Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Owner Rosalinda Taufique prepares a sale for 30-year-long customer Mario Flores at the newly upgraded and reopened Botanica Victoria in Humboldt Park on June 27, 2022.
Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
The newly upgraded and reopened Botanica Victoria, 2501 W. Division St., in Humboldt Park on June 27, 2022.

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