In 1901, José Estrada Tapia founded the "Botica Universal" in what used to be his home: Antigua Calle de la Carreta and Ángela Peralta, and is now on 5 Norte number 606.
José Estrada, originally from Chiautla de Tapia, inherited the business from his family, but it is Raúl Estrada, his youngest son, who now manages the place. Don Raul, who is called "Doc" by his customers, when asked about the age of his business, replies that his "pharmacy is only 116 years old".
Don Raul's father was an apothecarist, a person dedicated to prepare the remedies prescribed by doctors, written in French, indicating the components that the final preparation should contain.
The apothecary was also known as pharmacopeia and was the city's place of relief because - besides preparing prescriptions - they made ointments and other traditional remedies using herbal medicine, acids and salts.
Today, this art has disappeared in the city and is almost extinct throughout the world.
The passing of time
One could imagine apothecarists as expert laboratorians or chemists making combinations of strange substances; however, they were great connoisseurs of prescriptions with which they made the preparations prescribed by physicians.
As patent medicine was introduced, apothecaries were transformed into retail outlets for already prepared medicines and packaged for sale in pre-established doses and their use spread among physicians; thus, apothecaries became the pharmacies we know today.
With these changes, the apothecary changed its name to "Farmacia Universal" and began to sell personal hygiene products, some curiosities, soft drinks, medicines, as well as razors, eau de cologne, soaps, cosmetics, among others.
But the place still has displays of yesteryear that fill the atmosphere with nostalgia. In the background, you can see some bottles and the original furniture of the apothecary's shop.
The entrance is guarded by a mechanical squirrel, a mechanic ride for small children that can be happily ridden for a coin, to one side, a scale for people that indicates the weight with a large clock. A fridge with refreshments and display cases showing the products for sale form a path that transports the mind to the past.
The apothecary today
This business, like many others, regardless of their line, is besieged by different situations that make its life and duration more complex over time.
In this case, their main enemy are probably chain pharmacies, which have the possibility of buying large volumes of merchandise and thus have greater discounts than small pharmacies and their prices to the public are cheaper or they can make offers, something that is impossible for independent pharmacies.
"Sánchez Pharmacies. El Triángulo de la Salud" was a project of solidarity among small independent pharmacies to face the entry of large chains, they joined as a group to be able to buy larger volumes, have discounts and become stronger, but when the leader of the organization died, it collapsed.
Traditional pharmacies in the Historic Center of Puebla have been affected by various factors, such as the high cost of products, competition from large pharmacy chains, which even have supermarkets and are open twenty-four hours a day.
Added to this is the lack of security in the area, the earthquake of September 19, the fear of aftershocks and landslides and the security fence has caused that, after more than a week, their sales have been reduced, a matter that worries not only Don Raul, but all the merchants, who urge life to normalize and be able to continue with their businesses; the rents continue and the products expire, which would increase even more their losses.
Read it in Spanish here.