Although she's an expert at divining a person's life and future from tarot cards, Ruth Perez Gonzalez scoffs when she's simply called a tarot card reader.
"It's not a game," she says of her work as a spiritual medium. "This is serious stuff."
Perez Gonzalez, 55, says she also communicates with the voices of the dead. And as a notary public, she can help authenticate legal documents.
Everyone from housewives to businessmen to Baptist priests -- 150 people a week -- come to her back room at Whispering Winds in Manitou Springs for readings, she says.
"Most people who come in here are looking for a road or a path," says Perez Gonzalez. "The tarot reading is your life unfolded."
By laying down cards bearing symbols such as The Fool, The Wheel of Fortune and Death from the 78-card tarot deck, she can tell a lot about a person's fate. If she senses a spouse is cheating, she doesn't withhold the information.
As a vestige of ancient symbolism, the tarot has been condemned for centuries. The Roman Catholic Church and other groups have deemed it occult witchcraft.
"I don't believe in the occult," Perez Gonzalez says. "I don't believe in the black arts."
Born in Puerto Rico, her parents both learned the art of channeling spirits before moving the family to New York.
"Most Caribbean people are very in touch with their spirituality," Perez Gonzalez says, adding that her two siblings also are mediums for spirits.
As for her work as a notary public, she says she does it mostly to help people. But sometimes notary customers looking to authenticate divorce or housing documents need help seeing their path.
"I believe everyone should have a reading," she says.
-- Dan Wilcock
Photo by Jane McBee