Story by Desiree Cousineau 
Video by Amanda Ogle

Augustina Rivera, sits across the small table from Eva Martinez. Between them are four rows of six tarot cards. The shop is quiet except for rain pounding the cobblestone street outside.

With the tips of her fingers, most of which are decorated with rings, Eva flips a card and pauses. She asks Augustina what else she wants to know.

With tarot, the struggle is between having faith in God’s plan, and the human desire to know what comes next.

“The most important thing I want to know,” Augustina says, “is if my father will change.”

Eva points to the Separation Card. The rings on her fingers jingle. Her shoulder-length, orange-tinted hair is pulled away from her face, allowing her green and gold eye shadow to shimmer in the late afternoon sunlight.

Augustina slides forward in her white plastic chair, awaiting her answer.


Tarot’s growing popularity

Eva Martinez’s tarot card shop sits tucked away on a narrow street in Valle de Bravo, with a view of a cemetery. She is one of only a handful of tarot card readers in Valle de Bravo, but part of a larger trend. In many parts of Mexico, a struggle exists between tradition and modern life. With tarot, the struggle is between having faith in God’s plan, and the human desire to know what comes next, between belief in destiny and the need to feel in control of one’s destiny. More and more Latin Americans are turning to the cards for answers and the card readers for advice.

In 2010, 72 percent of Latin Americans identified themselves as Roman Catholic, but many are moving from priests and confession to cards and cleansings, a practice that many priests denounce.

Eva keeps her expression blank as she looks at the client who wants to know if her father will change.

“No, he won’t,” Eva responds. “But divine justice is always done.”



Her First Prediction

It was a cool November morning in 1951 in Mexico City. Eva Martinez was sitting with her paternal grandmother, holding her hands. Eva’s mother had left the family that year, when Eva was just three years old. Eva’s grandmother was trying to fill the void her daughter-in-law had left behind. By 9 a.m., the family had already been to mass and eaten breakfast and were getting ready to start their day.

When Eva’s 18-year-old uncle walked through the room, she released her grandmother’s hand suddenly. Eva had seen something, something that she refers to as her first prediction.

“You will be killed,” she told her uncle.

“Shut up, don’t you say that,” her grandmother responded.

According to Eva, two months later on January 10, her uncle’s friends brought bad news to their home. Adalborto was dead just as Eva had predicted.

“It’s a gift God gave me when I was a child,” Eva says.

While Eva feels she can see into the future of others, she hasn’t had the same success in predicting or preventing her own personal tragedies. Her father moved out when she was nine. Two of her brothers have passed away. Two of her three children have died, both from illnesses when they were less than a year old. She has been engaged four times but never married. She was a single mother at a time when, she says, “it was like a crime” in Mexico.

Yet Eva doesn’t see her misfortunes as a contradiction to her ability to see the future. Instead, she feels her tragedies connect her to her clients in a way that wouldn’t be possible had she avoided personal heartbreak.

“I’ve suffered a lot of negative things and that’s what makes me understand them.”


Something bad is happening

On a Sunday in June, 2014, Eva boards a bus at 7 a.m. She is traveling from Valle de Bravo to Mexico City. This is a trip she makes often, about twice a month. Eva keeps clients in both cities because she wants to help people in both places. But her trips to Mexico City are also personal. Her daughter lives there.

Her grandson Angelo has been counting down the days to this visit, just as he does every time Eva returns to Valle.

“He is my biggest love,” Eva says.

After arriving at her daughter’s house and getting in 15 days worth of hugs at once, Eva releases her grandson. The home doubles as her daughter’s restaurant during the week and scattered along the orange walls are neon-green poster boards with daily specials written on them.

Eva settles down as her daughter, Teresita del Rosario Martinez Meneses, and granddaughter, Sara Tovar Martinez, begin to prepare lunch. They refuse to let Eva help.

Soon chicken tacos, beef and salad span the length of the large, rectangular table. As she’s eating, Eva suddenly sits up very straight and places her hands on the table.

“You will be killed,” she told her uncle.
“Shut up, don’t you say that,” her grandmother responded.

“Something bad is happening.”

Her daughter barely looks up from her plate. Angelo is busy reaching for another taco.

“I don’t know what it is, but something bad is happening,” she repeats.

Eva’s outbursts and predictions are commonplace for her daughter and grandchildren. But not everyone in her family has been so willing to accept her career choice.

“It makes me distant from my family,” she says. “When something happens to them, they immediately say ‘Ay, sister did witchcraft on me,’ ‘Ay, my aunt did this,’ ‘Ay, my cousin did this.’”

Eva knows the pain of familial separation. At 23, Eva tracked down her mother and expressed her desire to rebuild their relationship, only to have her mother slam the door in her face. Eva has only seen her mother eight times in her life. Only two of her nine siblings speak to her. She has stopped trying to contact the rest after years of unreturned phone calls.

When you are in this type of work, she says, you are destined to be alone.

Eva says her family’s reservations about tarot cards stem from their deep Catholic faith. Even Teresita, who says she admires her mother’s strength to use her gift in the face of adversity, won’t allow Eva to perform cleansings on clients in her house.


Faith and Tarot

Eva does most of her readings behind a simple wooden desk in her shop- Eva Luz. The wall behind her holds a small shrine to her Catholic faith. Crucifixes of all sizes are mixed with paintings depicting angles and the life of Jesus. She believes her ability to see the future is a gift from God and she prays several times a day. Yet the Catholic Church doesn’t show the same support for Eva’s line of work. Tarot card reading, which dates back as far as the 15th century, is considered a sin by the church.

“The religion has its own fundamentals,” says Father Alejandro Guadarrama, a priest in Valle de Bravo. He believes the sin goes past the person performing the reading and to the person on the receiving end.

“They have the conscience to understand that it’s wrong. They have the conscience that it makes God upset. They have the conscience that it’s a sin. That’s why they confess [to me],” the priest says.

Some may confess that they have sought guidance from a tarot card reader, but there are other confessions that will never see the inside of a confessional booth.

Alexander “Robin” Kaczmarczyk Gonzalez is another tarot card reader in Valle de Bravo, but that is where the similarities with Eva stop. Robin, who was born in Mexico, lived in the United States until 2001. He returned to Mexico after “burning bridges” with his 9/11 conspiracy theories, he says.


Robin isn’t Catholic, but the majority of his clients are. So he begins each session by reading from the part of New Testament book of Revelation that reads, “those practicing spiritism and idolaters and all the liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur. This means the second death.”

“They must go in knowing that most holy books denounce it,” he says.

Yet despite his warnings, his clients almost always continue with the reading or cleansing. He calls it psychiatric help for cheap.

“I’ve seen everything from child abuse, murder, wife beatings. The trick of the tarot is people confessing.”

Eva, too, sees her Tarot shop as a place to listen to people who just need a place to talk about their problems. As an example, she cites her counseling of woman in abusive marriages. While some priests might tell them to work it out because divorce is not allowed in Catholicism, Eva tries a different approach.

“If someone says ‘I don’t have a house,’ I will let them stay at my house. If I can help you, I will try to help you.”


The blessings of her calling

It is Tuesday morning in Eva’s shop. A client walks through the black metal doors. Before Eva can even bring out the cards, the client hands her a bag of fresh-baked bread. A huge smile spreads over Eva’s face.

Eva’s job has cost her most of her relationships, yet the same profession has connected her to people who consider her family, who are more than willing to fill the void left behind by her relatives.

“It’s not always about reading the cards, but simply being a friend. That’s why I am in Valle, to help people and support them.”

Eva looks out around her shop and grins.

“I’m not rich, but I’m a multimillionaire in blessings,” she says. “A lot of blessings.”

The Seekers

Those who seek direction for the future arrive at Eva’s shop following many diverse paths. Five of those clients talk about their experiences.

Lidice Urbinez Mercado

45-year-old homemaker.

“I have found a lot of peace with this lady. For me [this candle] is a light, it gives me peace, tranquility in my home.  I come very often to see her, because my trust is in her and thanks to her I am born again. I’m born again. The truth is that I love Eva so much and thanks to her, now I am what I am.”

Rubén García Garibay

30- year-old jewelry salesman.

“She has given me a lot of confidence and all that she has said to me has worked.

That is why I am still with Eva. That’s why when I need to talk I come here and talk to her. She helps me.”


Agustina Hernández Rivera

31-year-old chemical laboratory assistant.

“I am…hoping to find answers in my favor. More than consulting a tarot card reader, it is like consulting a friend, and with her, we have the feeling that she’s more than a friend.”


Balbina Anselmo Caballero

38-year-old homemaker.

“Once I walked by here and saw the sign and that caught my attention. Miss Eva has inspired confidence in me. I come here [now] for the health of one of my brothers.

[Eva] gives you that advice that sometimes you cannot find outside, and simply somebody to listen to you and give you a hug.”


Maria Cristin Salgado

63-year-old physiotherapist.

“I was uneasy when I met her because I never used to look for this kind of information. But I think everybody in life has had that kind of curiosity.

She makes reference to a lot of things that are impossible for her to know, because she doesn’t know me and it amazes me and helps me and makes me realize there are certain things I have to deal with. [The card is] the balance of the emotions. It means that I don’t have them in order, or that I am giving priority to something that right now doesn’t matter.”