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Natural Awakenings Charlotte

In Remembrance

Oct 06, 2016 11:37AM

The shrine inside Pura Vida’s spiritual room- Teresa Hernandez

Pura Vida Wordly Art Offers a Place to Commemorate the Dead

by Kimberly Lawson

Tucked away inside Pura Vida Worldly Art in NoDa is something of a sacred space. While the noise of happy weekend revelers trickles through the shop’s front door, a makeshift shrine stands serenely against the back wall of an inner room. While the front space is packed with colorful, lively merchandise, this space, what owner Teresa Hernandez calls her spiritual room, is peaceful. Books about living life fully and other items that have to do with religion seem to contribute to that energy.

During Day of the Dead, which falls on November 1 and 2, we remember those who have passed on and offer prayers to help them along their spiritual journey. As the holiday approaches, a visit to the small memorial inside one of Charlotte’s most eclectic shops seems right.

The shrine is adorned with photos left behind by loved ones. People of all ages and races, and dogs, cats and horses, too, are remembered here. Mementos appear strewn about as well—a single earring, an infant sock, a pair of cufflinks—but they’re all left very intentionally. When Hernandez moved the store from Plaza Midwood to NoDa, she took pictures of the shrine to make sure every item was placed back exactly where it was left. “If a box of candy was with a particular person, I wanted to make sure that box of candy stayed with that person at the new location,” she says.

Hernandez says she started the shrine in 2005 to accompany a yearly Day of the Dead art exhibit. She asked people to leave photos of their favorite deceased artist or musician, but eventually they started leaving images of family and friends. Not sure if those people would return to retrieve those photos, she left the shrine up year-round. Some people do return, but not to retrieve the items left behind. They come to pay their respects.

A retail store is an unconventional place to find something honoring the dead, but for some reason, it works. “Just from what people say, I think they find it beautiful,” says Hernandez. “They want their family to be a part of this wall where all of these people are being honored. I think when people approach the shrine, once they figure out what it is, they have a lot of respect for it.” “I think it reminds people that [death] is a part of life,” she continues, “and also that death is something we all have in common.”

Since moving to the neighborhood six years ago, the shrine has grown because of the community. The only contribution Hernandez has offered is a photo of a local artist who died of cancer not long ago. She says everything else, including two crosses, a Buddha statue and clay Jesus and Mary figurines, has been brought in by customers.

It says something about Hernandez that so many have left with her something in memory of a lost loved one. She takes the duty seriously. “They say keeping water where you think there’s a spirit helps calm them and makes them feel comfortable and welcome,” she says, “so we always keep water in the shrine.”

Pura Vida Worldly Art is located at 3202-A N. Davidson St. Visit for more information.

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