Barack Obama just wanted to be president, but on Valencia Street, his image has been morphed into Saint Barack Obama de Porres–and he is flying off the shelves.
Small candles with Barack Obama’s head digitally placed on the body of San Martin de Porres, the first black saint and patron saint of Peru, the Philippines and Mexico sell for $15 each. For Mia Galaviz de Gonzalez, the owner of Encantada at 908 Valencia Street, the candles are just another take on religious art, one of the genres her store has been selling since it opened 11 years ago.
When asked if there has been any push-back from the community about something that could be upsetting to the pious, Gonzalez laughed. She said the candles started selling on Saturday, the store isn’t open on Mondays and by Wednesday they were on their third box.
“We knew some people might get offended but it wasn’t meant to be hurtful or harmful,” she said. “It’s a contemporary image.”
Gonzalez said she isn’t very religious but thinks faith is important.
“You have to have faith in something, whatever it is,” she said.
Gonzalez is an avid supporter of Obama, and said she thinks he will bring about much-needed change. Recently, her own business has suffered and to survive the downturn she subleased her adjacent gallery.
While other small shops have been hurt by the recent gentrification in the Mission, she is ambivalent about the demographic changes. On one hand it is difficult to find an affordable house in the Mission District now, but her store has been supported by the influx of new residents.
On November 2, the boutique is having a fashion show and cultural celebration as part of the festivities called Bailando con La Muerte or Dancing with Death, which ends November 9. There will be poetry, art performances, music and window art installments in participating shops all along Valencia Street between 18th and 22nd.
Gonzalez’s store sells art from local and Mexican artists and jewelry, pottery and other crafts from Mexico.
Two paintings in the boutique that stand out include one of a family–the mother looks like Eva Longoria–gazing upon a portrait of the Virgin Mary, and another of Samson and Delilah in which Delilah looks like a high-class prostitute and Samson looks like a plainclothes cop.
Right now, however, Saint Obama might be the most popular item. The gigantic wax candle in the storefront will sell for $400 and there are still more smaller candles.
“I just think there’s power behind the image,” Gonzalez said.