I finally stopped by La Sirena Mexican Folk Art during its recent sale. The quaint, cozy store on East 3rd St. is filled with colorful Mexican trinkets of all kinds. I felt as if I stumbled upon a little Mexican heaven – while my eyes soaked in all of the bright colors, my ears were happily listening to cumbia sonidera, and the smell of incense created a warm vibe. This is the place to go if you need books about lucha libre, papel picado, or milagros to pray with. Below are some words I exchanged with the owner, Dina Leor…
Name: Dina Leor
Occupation: Store owner of La Sirena for the past 7.5 years
Location: 27 East 3rd Street (Between Second Avenue and Bowery)
Ethnicity: My Mom is Argentinian, but I was born and am still living on the island of Manhattan.
What area did you grow up? Upper West Side
What gave you the idea to open the store? When I was 13, I almost ran away to Mexico, because I loved it so much. We used to go to Mexico after visiting family in Argentina. I still cry every time I come back. Later, when I became an art teacher at Bellevue Hospital, I used to go to Mexico to recoup during any free time that I got, because the job was very intense. I would bring stuff back from Mexico, and people started asking me to bring them things. After I stopped teaching, I started to sell my stuff on St. Mark’s Place. After that, the idea of opening a store came about.
How did you think of the name “La Sirena”? I love the ocean and sirenas, and I just happen to be a pisces. They used to call me sirena when I was little.
What are some of the most popular items you sell? Lots of lucha libre and religious stuff, Virgen de Guadalupe sweatshirts and handmade jewelry.
Who have been some of your most interesting customers? Gael García Bernal, Lila Downs…a lot of my customers fascinate me – it’s like a little social happening. I love it when Mexican families come here, because I feel like they can have their culture here. During Christmas, they bought nacimientos here.
What do you love about NYC? I love the cultural diversity – the people, the food, and mix of colors.
What do you hate? The noise and cell phones!
Future plans? A lot of undocumented immigrants are artisans, and my dream is to have a bigger place so that I can have classes and have more room for people to make things.