Beatriz Bracamonte comes from a long line of healers, through plant medicines and helping people feel healthy again.
Then COVID-19 struck.
“When the pandemic hit, obviously I could not have people physically present with me,” Bracamonte says. “In doing healings with people and beings, as soon as there’s some sort of discord, especially with the pandemic where nobody knows what’s going on, it creates fear. Fear creates disease and worry.
“We had already progressed with some healings. I didn’t want them to feel like they’re alone again and disconnected.”
So, Bracamonte got creative, hand-making soaps and creams and mailing them out so “they would know I was still there with them.”
Bracamonte owns Flowing Waters Soap Co., a line of soaps handcrafted with natural ingredients, emphasizing sustainability and the traditional plant knowledge that has been passed down through generations of Yoeme matriarchs in Bracamonte’s family. The soaps are pretty to look at and even better to smell.
Bracamonte did extensive research before launching Flowing Waters Soap, taking the time to understand the origins of cleansing products, learning how to infuse soap with plants and natural medicines, and going through periods of trial and error before perfecting the method of hot-process soap making.
“My family learned how to use plants thousands of years ago and in our culture, things are passed down by oral presentation and being taken out and acknowledging the plants and being told the infrastructure of the plant,” Bracamonte says.
“Sustainability is important to me because we have to create balance, and creating balance with sustainability, it’s sourcing without over-sourcing. It’s like overeating. Everybody knows it’s bad for you; we all try to not to do it. It’s like a control factor, I suppose. You can’t sit there and eat everything in your refrigerator because then there’s nothing. Sustainability is important for future generations, and to teach younger generations — no, we don’t have to pull out the whole plant to make a bar of soap. You can take a couple clippings here and there.
“It’s balance and nature,” Bracamonte says. “It’s balance and humanity.”
Bracamonte underlines traditions of creating with respect, permission and gratitude — waking up and greeting Taa’a (sun), asking plant relatives for permission before harvesting, and honoring ancestors, family lineage and Mother Nature.
Bracamonte's family — mom, sister and nephew — are also creatives. They make items of their own, including jewelry, body polishes and paper goods, with the same values in mind.
The plants in the Flowing Waters Soap products — aloe vera, creosote bush (aka one of the plants that's said to cause our glorious monsoon scents), rosemary and more — come from plants that Bracamonte grows or harvests in the desert, in addition to trustworthy friends who harvest plants, like lavender and sage, that are harder to find in Tucson.
“It’s natural plants, naturally sourced. I did a lot of research on who I’m sourcing from — getting to know these people, knowing what their businesses are doing,” Bracamonte says. “There has to be a certain amount of trust and I know trust is really hard, especially on a commercial business. That’s why I think it’s important for people to come out to markets and meet their makers.”
“My name’s behind it. My ancestors are behind it. I’m not just trying to make money,” Bracamonte says.
Bracamonte’s favorite Flowing Waters Soap product is the Nopal Primavera soap, a pink and green bar made with nopales and aloe vera. It’s described as an earthy scent of “desert spring greenery and blossoming fruit blossoms.”
“I’ve been eating (nopales) since I was a kid and going out and harvesting them with my mom as a kid. It creates this whole harmonious memory,” Bracamonte says.
Customers love the Oro Indígena, a pretty blue soap with gold flakes that smells like crisp water with undertones of black orchids. The Desert Rain soap is another hit, meant to embody the “scent of wet Earth and the unique aromatic Sonoran Desert foliage after the monsoon rains.”
While in the Navy for nearly a decade, Bracamonte realized how hard it was to explain to people what creosote is and what desert rain smells like.
“It’s monsoon. That’s how you know whether the grounds have been fed right,” Bracamonte says. “Rain smells so different in different places.”
Tucsonans love the Desert Rain soap — especially when monsoon season is over.
“People come here for school, they leave, they come back, they decide they want to settle here. But when they go back to the east coast, or whatever part of the world they happen to come from, they always want to take a part of the desert with them without taking a plant or harming anything. So Desert Rain is definitely one of those bars of soap they like to gift to family,” Bracamonte says.
7 Southern Arizona makers who sell soaps, candles and other essentials made with creosote bush
Bisbee Soap & Sundry — This is a recommendation we've seen several times online. They offer creosote soaps, candles and salves. Buy online or at their Bisbee brick and mortar.
Sonoran Rosie — Diffusers, roll-on herbal perfume, face oils, creams and more. Buy online, at local markets or at Arizona Poppy. "Let your whole room smell like the desert rain!" maker Rosie Crocker says of their creosote diffuser.
Artemesia Soaps, Salts & Scrubs — Bars of soap made with creosote, "reminiscent of a Sonoran Desert rain." Buy online or at their east-side brick and mortar.
Gigglestars Soap Co. — Here's what the maker says about their desert rain soap: "It smells like the Sonoran Desert after a rain — if you have ever lived in the Sonoran Desert, you will know what I mean. There is no other smell that compares." There's a creosote oil-infused beeswax salve, too.
Spring + Vine — Find a creosote and honey soap from maker Ashley Ambrosio, who says the soap smells like "fresh rain in the desert."
Truelli Nature — Lotion bars and whipped body butter. Maker Tre' Jackson-Navarrette says they have a subtle scent of creosote that makes it "smell like a rainy day in the desert."