CHICA Boss Suhaly Bautista-Carolina On The Healing Power of Plants and Her Life Mission
Afro-Dominican spiritual herbalist Suhaly Bautista-Carolina opens up to People CHICA about spreading nature's healing love through her practice, Moon Mother Apothecary.
Suhaly Bautista-Carolina kicks off our Chica Boss Pride video series where we profile Latina power players who are at the top of their game and uplifting the community through their efforts. During Pride Month, we're focusing on women who are making an impact on the LGBTQ+ community - whether they are a member of the community themselves or allies who are advocating for it.
Plant medicine has always been a part of Suhaly Bautista-Carolina's life. "In my home, my mom had deep knowledge and wisdom about plants," says Bautista-Carolina, who would watch her as a child preparing magical concoctions in their kitchen. "She knew how to work with plants to [help] us with colds or coughs, fevers, headaches. She had that wisdom." Bautista-Carolina inherited that wisdom and became a spiritual herbalist -someone who understands the properties of plants and uses them to promote healing and wellness.
As a child she was always curious about nature and felt in her element when she was outdoors. She also had a calling to help others, especially her loved ones. "In 2012, my wife was suffering from really severe migraines," says Bautista-Carolina, who grew up in New York, where she lives with her wife and their daughter, Luna. Seeing her wife experience severe side effects from traditional medicine, Bautista-Carolina wanted to find another way to help her. "That led me to my apprenticeship at Sacred Vibes Apothecary," she says. "That was my first introduction into the formal study of plants."
She describes her business, Moon Mother Apothecary, as an "intersection of plant power and people power." "It's a practice, it's a shop, it's an offering, it's a place to receive knowledge, both for myself and for those who come to Moon Mother," she says. Going back to her roots helps her thrive as a healer. "Being Dominican definitely inspires a lot of what I do. I think about Washington Heights and Inwood -where I was born and raised- and how much wisdom there is in the people and how much we know, how much we bring back from the island back to this very island," she recognizes. "It is something I honor each day, my Dominican-ness, my Quisqueyan identity."
She also celebrates being part of the LGBTQ+ community. "I want young members of the LGBTQ community to see me as someone who stands in their power, as someone who is authentic and true, who honors their ancestry, who respects the land that we are on, the planet that we were gifted," she says.
The spiritual herbalist found her soulmate in college. "She is my best friend," she says about her wife. "We have so much in common, and really my journey into plant medicine is all about her. All about seeing her, someone that I love, suffering and to really grapple with that, to be called upon to investigate what I can do about that. She is the motivation behind my study into plant medicine, my curiosity about other modes of healing. And then our daughter Luna is really the inspiration of my practice. I became the Moon Mother because I had my daughter, and her name is Luna."
Her wife was her rock while they were growing their business, and Luna continues to be a daily inspiration. "My daughter is the apprentice. She also has this magnetic, very gravitational pull to plants. I will find her talking to the plants," she says. "She has her own relationship with the natural world and it's really beautiful to witness."
Setting a good example for Luna motivates her. "I want her to see us as a family of doers, a family of caregivers, a family of folks who understood their power and moved with that," says Bautista-Carolina, who's proud of the life they've built. "One of the most rewarding parts of being in the LGBTQ community is the family. The sense that you have folks who will love you and support you and are going to be proud of you and show up to all your major life moments to celebrate you and to honor you." And she adds: "I have never had a major life event where my queer community, my queer family wasn't there showing up, popping bottles to celebrate me."
She also wants everyone to celebrate, honor and respect the LGBTQ+ community year-round, not just during Pride Month. "People should know that we are here, that we are beautiful, we are talented and powerful and proud. That we are artists, and mother and makers," she says. "Everywhere you go there are queer folks, LGBTQ folks, everywhere we turn. We can be anything. We are boundless."