Best of Phoenix

She Devil

She once co-owned a shop in Glendale called Saints and Sinners, but now you can only find Nancy Nenad's south-of-the-border treasures at the occasional local festival (like the Desert Botanical Garden's Días de los Muertos celebration) or anytime on eBay (search under sellers for funkychickeneggranch). Nenad uses the proceeds from sales of her devilish wares — mainly Day of the Dead skeletons, which symbolize and celebrate the dead, and maybe the occasional voodoo accouterment — to fund more trips to Mexico and to support her menagerie of injured animals, which includes a canary with broken legs and a hog with a smashed skull. She and her mother, Bets, 80, have made their trips south for years — Nancy first went at age 3 — and the evidence is scattered around her Phoenix home, along with Planet of the Apes collectibles and a large ankle-nipping parrot that loves blondes.

You're Not Going to Find This Stuff at the Mall
These days we go to Mexico City, Guadalajara and Oaxaca, and on occasion we drive, if we have a lot of items to bring back. But that's a bit dangerous, for two women to be out there on the road. . . . It takes three or four days of a lot of driving, but you want to get off the road at night.

Art Walk
We just scour the streets and the markets, and we know a lot of people who are involved in the arts down in Mexico City, and they'll give us a heads up about this artist or whatnot, and we are invited to gatherings of artists, and that's where we find the really incredible people, just out there walking the streets.

The Most Unusual Thing She's Sold on eBay
A fur-lined baby coffin. That we found when we were walking down the street in Pueblo, Mexico. I said, "Look, this is horrific and it's beautiful all at once." Fake white fur, lace, little rosettes. That sold for about $70, I think.

One of the Most Popular Things She's Sold on eBay
Sex scenes are hilarious; they always sell well on eBay. Little skulls that open up and have a fornicating couple inside.

How She Paid Her Last Vet Bill
I had a Day of the Dead Kennedys motorcade made. I just sold it.

You Can Commission Anything
A lot of people like to have themselves done in skeleton form. I do, too — I have that huge piece out there of myself walking a rhino.

But You Can't Please Everyone
Some people are offended. This one lady came up and said, "You're carrying the devil's items!"

Where You Might Find the Nenad Women on the Day of the Dead
Probably my favorite place to be is Oaxaca and to go out to a cemetery called Xoxo. There is nothing like coming over this little hill to the cemetery and seeing thousands and thousands of candles . . . and people out there with food, thousands of people. It's just from a different world, from a different experience, you know? It takes you out of the mediocrity of life and lets you know what life is all about. You'll see people celebrating, you'll see people in tears.

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Amy Silverman is a two-time winner of the Arizona Press Club’s Journalist of the Year award. Her work has appeared on the radio show This American Life and in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Lenny Letter, and Brain, Child. She’s the co-curator of the live reading series Bar Flies, and a commentator for KJZZ, the NPR affiliate in Phoenix. Silverman is the author of the book My Heart Can’t Even Believe It: A Story of Science, Love, and Down Syndrome (Woodbine House 2016). Follow her on Instagram (@amysilverman), Twitter (@amysilvermanaz), and at