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Psychics Are Voters Too - Talking Politics In Cassadaga

Ken Hernandez works at The Purple Rose, a bookstore and psychic shop in Cassadaga
Ken Hernandez works at The Purple Rose, a bookstore and psychic shop in Cassadaga

This week 90.7 News is talking with central Florida voters before the state’s March 15th presidential primary. Central Florida is the swing region of this swing state…and adding to the area’s diversity is the Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp, a Volusia County community nicknamed “The Psychic Capital of the World.”

And psychics are voters, too, with political issues on their minds just like most people preparing to cast their ballots.

The first sign you’ve reached Cassadaga is a literal sign…for the Cassadaga Psychic Shop. Inside the store, crystals, incense, and jewelry are among the items for sale. There’s soothing music, a friendly tattooed man at the cash register, and little private rooms for psychic readings.

It’s in one of these rooms I speak to psychic reader Edna Velez-Munoz. The table between us is covered in a rich, colorful tapestry. Her ornate black and gold Tarot card deck sits forgotten for the moment as we talk politics.

Velez-Munoz will not tell me whether her clients come in with political questions on their minds – that’s confidential, she says, sort of like talking to a therapist. But she will tell me what’s important to her this election season. It’s Social Security. She tells me she recently turned 62…and found that her benefits don’t keep up with the cost of living.

“I've paid into the system, I’ve worked my time, and I feel I’m not asking for anything free. I’m not asking for a hand-out,” she says. “I don’t feel it’s an 'entitlement' because I worked for it.”

Like many retirees, Velez-Munoz works to supplement her Social Security. She also gets a pension from her previous job with the City of New York, but she knows not everyone has the option of earning a pension these days. She worries about people living on Social Security alone, and she’s frustrated that none of the candidates seem to be talking about it.

“I’ve been watching all the debates and I don’t recall it even being mentioned once,” says Velez-Munoz. “They skirt all the issues, not just that one.”

Heading down Cassadaga’s main street, I meet Covita Gray. She and two friends are heading for lunch at the nearly hundred-year-old Hotel Cassadega in the middle of town.

[caption id="attachment_57773" align="alignnone" width="250"]

Hotel Cassadaga[/caption]

“I am concerned about having someone in the White House that continues with the legacy that [President] Obama has been trying to lay out,” says Gray. “As a self-employed person, it is very important to me to have the health insurance. That has been a life-saver for me.”

She says in her case, the Affordable Care Act has lived up to its name.

But another Cassadaga visitor says he doesn’t find much “affordable” these days, and he thinks perhaps too many things are up for sale.

“Congress and the Supreme Court are bought and paid for,” says Michael Linden. Linden sits outside a shop called The Purple Rose, waiting for his psychic reading there. It’s his first time in this unique community, which is, at its heart, a church. It was founded in the late 1800’s by a New York man who said he was led to the property by a spirit guide.

Linden has come for a little guidance of his own. He says the issue at the top of his political list is fundamental fairness – or a lack of it.

“Lobbyists, people like that, should not be allowed to exist. Everything should be fair,” he says, adding that he feels corporate interests and big money are stacking the political deck against everyday Americans.

Ken Hernandez works inside the Purple Rose. Hernandez, also a Volusia County teacher, says it’s the military that’s weighing on his mind.

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Purple Rose psychic reading room[/caption]

“Bringing the troops home. I think that’s my one biggest issue,” Hernandez says. “Being a former military man, and being a teacher, I see where these young kids are going to be heading for, because the economy is so bad one of the only options that they have is the military.”

Hernandez says he sees health care for veterans improving, in terms of physical health, but mental health care could be better. And that speaks to why many people are drawn to Cassadaga.

“The body is one thing,” he says, but “especially here in Cassadaga where we’re more concerned with the spirit and the soul...that part, we don’t feel – well, I can’t speak for all Cassadagans, but I feel that that part is not being take care of.”

Back at Cassadaga Psychic Shop, Edna Velez-Munoz has a message for the candidate who ultimately wins. And it’s not from the Great Beyond. It's more like a little perspective from beyond America’s borders.

She says, be an honorable president – the world is watching.

Nicole came to Central Florida to attend Rollins College and started working for Orlando’s ABC News Radio affiliate shortly after graduation. She joined Central Florida Public Media in 2010. As a field reporter, news anchor and radio show host in the City Beautiful, she has covered everything from local arts to national elections, from extraordinary hurricanes to historic space flights, from the people and procedures of Florida’s justice system to the changing face of the state’s economy.