Welcome to our Being Texan video series, in which we’ll explore the dreams and realities of Texans from all walks of life, from the Panhandle to the Gulf Coast, the Trans-Pecos to the Piney Woods. 

The small, brightly colored shops known as botánicas have a way of blending into the streetscape on the South Side of San Antonio. But the businesses—which sell medicinal herbs, oils, and religious paraphernalia, as well as offer spiritual counseling—have played an outsized role in this community during the pandemic.

I got curious about that role when I was sifting through numbers this summer that revealed an unmistakable link between San Antonio’s high number of COVID-19 cases and the socioeconomic challenges faced by the city’s Hispanic residents. I wanted to understand how those without access to health insurance—or those hoping to avoid the cost and perceived complication of mainstream medicine—were coping with the deadly epidemic devastating our communities.

My initial reporting, published in September, revealed that the answer to that complex question involved botánicas, which had begun serving as an outlet for uninsured people battling COVID-19. But our latest video reporting goes a step further, providing viewers with a glimpse into how botánicas offer customers an informal network of faith-based healing that is rooted in centuries of tradition. With the help of Yadhira Lozano, a San Antonio native and cultural expert whose family has long practiced plant-based medicine, we were able to interview some of the city’s healers and business owners about the unique role they’ve played in their communities during this year’s health crisis. We hope you find their stories as interesting, and eye-opening, as we did.

Director Chris Beier is a filmmaker who’s crafted documentaries for Fast Company, Inc. Magazine, Google, and, of course, Texas Monthly. Thank you to our friends at Tecovas for sponsoring the series.

Have a story you think we should tell? Email us at roar@texasmonthly.com.

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