Entertainment

Here’s How Netflix’s ‘Siempre Bruja’ Is Getting it Right And Wrong

In the world of brujería, Hollywood has been a major disappointment. For one, white girls are always witches, when we all know that every source of witchery boils down to our indigenous and Black roots. America’s initial obsession with witchcraft started with 17th century Puritan Americans and their absolute terror of the religious practices of colonizer’s African slaves.

Hollywood has capitalized on stolen culture en masse with its installments of witchy films and series, ranging from “Practical Magic” to “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” to “Charmed.” This genre is so inherently white, that when The CW’s reboot of “Charmed” was advertised as a trio of Latina witches, the Internet exploded with excitement. That was quickly followed by disappointment once we saw that, once again, the Latina characters were not all played by Latinas.

Prepare yourself for a similar journey with “Siempre Bruja,” which while it might be the best ever depiction of brujería, it is also another instance of Hollywood’s obsession with racial reconciliation fantasy.

The best part of the whole show is Angely Gaviria performance of Carmen.

Credit: @thegirlmob / Twitter

“Siempre Bruja” is a breakout role for Gaviria, who was born in Cartagena, Colombia. This Afro-Latina beauty is an actual beauty queen, holding the Señorita Afrodescendiente crown when she was just 16 years old. This show marks her third on-screen performance, and she slayed.

The show is based in Cartagena, Colombia.

Credit: Siempre Bruja / Netflix

Major props to the production. We get to see the beauty of the coast, strong colors, and cultura all throughout. At least we’re getting our brujería en español.

Pro tip: the English dubs are terrible, but the English subtitles are key for Spanish-challenged Latinos.

Like The CW, Netflix failed to promote the problematic plot of the entire show.

Credit: Siempre Bruja / Netflix

We started out seeing an Afro-Latina bruja being burned at the stake only to escape to the year 2019 in her hometown of Cartagena. Sounds compelling, right?

We get to see an Afro-Colombian play an Afro-Colombian and create more visibility.

Credit: @LHerstorian / Twitter

It seems outrageous that any production would get points for hiring an Afro-Latina but this is 2019 and seeing an Afro-Latina get a starring role is a huge deal. Hopefully, not for long, thanks to Angely.

Prepare yourself for this major flaw.

Carmen’s entire motivation is to save her lover, who happens to be her slave master.

Credit: Siempre Bruja / Netflix

We meet Cristobal as Carmen’s real-life white savior who purchases her as his own, after having pity for the way she was being treated. No points are given, sir.

Carmen narrates her journey via lovesick letters to her Cristobal, who is stuck in the past.

Credit: Siempre Bruja / Netflix

So, a powerful bruja who was enslaved in the past finds herself in the present, where she suddenly is treated like a human and she wants to go back to her slave master?

Written for white audiences, by white writers, or nah?

Credit: @theetemi / Twitter

Such a trope. So bad. Carmen is head over heels in love with Cristobal, who plays the ultimate white savior.

There were so many missed opportunities for black characters to be their own advocates.

Credit: Siempre Bruja / Netflix

Hilda is Carmen’s best friend, who ends up getting caught up in this strange power dynamic. After Carmen disappears, it’s Cristobal who is corroborating her magic, not her BFF.

Al fin, Carmen and Hilda are saved purchased again by the descendent of their previous owners.

Credit: Siempre Bruja / Netflix

This time, it’s the great-grandson of their old owners. He comes in the nick of time to trade spooky futuristic gadgets (compass, watch, etc.) in exchange for their bodies.

A white man teaches Carmen about her magic. ????

Credit: Siempre Bruja / Netflix

People are growing tired. They always promise that they’ll do some things right in this show. To be fair, we do get some flashbacks of Carmen’s family teaching her about her magic before they were separated by the horrors of slavery. 

Oh, and then there’s a whole other love triangle with another white guy.

Credit: Siempre Bruja / Netflix

Why can’t these roles be given to more POC? Put black men in hero roles. Stop making white men saviors for black women.

All that said, let’s point out what “Siempre Bruja” did right.

Credit: @AyasatoHikari / Twitter

The base plot is truly terrible, but the actress herself is captivating. Plus, we get to see beachside Colombia in ways that we rarely see streaming on Netflix. It’s a binge-worthy show.

La Fiesta de la Candelaria scenes are breathtaking.

Credit: Siempre Bruja / Netflix

Instead of The CW’s “Charmed” sorority party scenes, we get to see Cartagena’s most celebrated holiday, an obvious nod to how slavery would ultimately impact ‘the future.’ African people celebrated their own religion under the pretense of Roman Catholic saints and holidays forced on them. La Fiesta de la Candelaria is a major celebration of African spirituality and black culture in the Caribbean.

Central to La Fiesta is The Black Madonna.

Credit: Siempre Bruja / Netflix

Unfortunately, we have to hear Carmen belittling herself and judging her powers based on how they affect Cristobal, but hey, representation, right? This is the problematic double-sided coin of the entire show in a nutshell.

There are some indigenous people cast in the show támbien.

Credit: Siempre Bruja / Netflix

He shows up during a university class and is introduced as a source of knowledge. I thought we’d see much more of him, and that he’d help Carmen in some way, pero, no.

Then there was the scene reminiscent of the magic realism of “Agua de Chocolate.”

Credit: Siempre Bruja / Netflix

Carmen is crying tears over Cristobal while she’s cooking, and suddenly, her patrons start grieving as well. It, of course, must be pointed out that future Carmen is still serving white people without pay in the same exact home, now run as a hostel. She’s working for a free place to stay.

The Santera in all of us got excited to see this ritual.

Credit: Siempre Bruja / Netflix

You’re not Latino if your tía didn’t wear all white for at least one decade in your life. This ritual, of course, was centered around Carmen trying to forget Cristobal so she could function.

Ok, so some white magic came through with the ouija board. 

Credit: Siempre Bruja / Netflix

We all know they’re meant to invoke dead spirits, and luckily, Carmen was surprised to learn of it existing in the future. That’s because white people made that up, but Carmen’s powers were able to create contact.

“When you see a light flash across the sky, it’s a soul leaving this plane.”

Credit: Siempre Bruja / Netflix

All of us heard our mamis say this at one point or another, and it was cool to see it happen in “Siempre Bruja.” Carmen helped release a spirit and watched his soul streak across the sky.

Bottom line: “Siempre Bruja” isn’t perfect, but perfect is the enemy of the good. We have representation you won’t see anywhere else on television and that needs to be celebrated.

Credit: Siempre Bruja / Netflix

Have you watched “Siempre Bruja”? What do you think about the show and it’s representation of Afro-Latinos in Afro-Latino roles?

READ: Aja’s ‘Brujería’ Is The Anthem For All Of The Brujas Who Are Just Living Their Best Life

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These Brooklynite Afro-Dominican Twins Are Unapologetically Reclaiming Brujería

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These Brooklynite Afro-Dominican Twins Are Unapologetically Reclaiming Brujería

Brujería is practically second nature to Ph.D ‘Social Science Brujas‘ and yoginis, Dr. Griselda Rodriguez-Solomon and Dr. Miguelina Rodriguez. For the Afro-Dominican twins raised in Bushwick, Brooklyn in the ’80s, their spirituality emerged in their youth.

The twins were raised Catholic and watched their faith parallel the private rituals their mother practiced. Surrounded by altars and religious objects common of the 21 Divisions or Dominican Vudu, brujería seemed normal.

Yet, in the public eye openly claiming such practices were shunned.

“Unfortunately, that mystery is not because the practice itself is mysterious and dark; it’s because main society and religion has made it so that we have this fear of brujas, brujería, and santería,” Miguelina told Refinery29.

Known as the Brujas of Brooklyn, the twins sought to create a space dedicated to the solace of women of African descent further dismantling the harmful ties once associated with brujería.

Launched in 2016, Griselda and Miguelina work to normalize ancestral practices and heal generational trauma.

As scholars and professors at the City University of New York, they tackle conversations around gender, religion, race, and anti-blackness in the community through meditation.

“With Brujas of Brooklyn (like so many other platforms), we really create a space for Latinx people to explore what it means to be Latinx, and to understand that who we are doesn’t exist in a box,” Griselda told Bustle.

Syncretic traditions and rituals descendant from the Yoruba faith are a source of resilient strength in the face of historical brutality within the Latin American diaspora. Out of the 11.2 million Africans that survived the transatlantic slave trade, only 450,000 arrived in the United States. The rest were dispersed in the Caribbean, Central and South America.

Resistant to the cultural erasure, these spiritual practices have remained and expanded within the diaspora. Now a resurgence is evident.

Thanks to social media, spirituality and witchcraft have grown among millennials. Formerly, private practices have become mainstream as today’s brujas are working to unravel folk myths that have led to the miseducation of many.

You see them everywhere through astrologers, tarot readers, and holistic healers.

Brujas live their lives unapologetically and the twins are no exception.

Spirituality in Latin America is complex. Demonized by Christianity, the fear of brujería is also rooted in sexism.

“The word bruja for me, it’s very political… it has been demonized for so many years. And a lot of it, we’re starting to understand, is because women are inherently powerful people,” said Miguelina to Refinery29. “I think that when a woman taps into that power, she becomes so powerful, and the patriarchy is scared of that.”

In order to reclaim a practice, one must first decolonize the mind and spirit as well as empower the women that paved the way for witchcraft.

“The people that were considered witches in Western Europe, Africa, or Latin America, were curanderas, herbalists, midwives, doulas, astrologers. There are generations of women whose powers couldn’t manifest because those in power were afraid of us,” said Griselda for Bustle.

Like those that came before them, the twins are ‘womb-healers,’ aimed to heal the inherited intergenerational trauma, which disproportionately affects Black women.

In the United States, Black women historically have the highest maternal mortality rates. Due to health conditions and institutional racism within the healthcare system, in 2018 Black women were 2.5 times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications.

Practicing Yoni, an ancient Sanskrit word for ‘vulva’, they tap perform an act called “woke womb work” in retreats and workshops. They also involve Kundalini yoga in their craft which involves chanting, breathing exercises, and poses meant to activate Shakti; spiritual energy located in the spine.

Both containing origins in Hinduism, the practice is tied to divine feminine energy.

With workshops serving up to 100 people, now virtually during the pandemic, the Brujas of Brooklyn having taken their practices to the public sphere. As they continue to work to revive a legacy robbed from them, in part due to anti-blackness, those that engage are discovering inner magic they never knew they had.

“Women have been reclaiming this word for generations,” Griselda shared to Bustle. “But we’re seeing it a lot more today because of social media, thank God. What better ancestor to reclaim than the witches who took no sh*t 700 years ago. We’re living through her in a new way.”

Read: More Mothers Are Hiring Doulas, But What Is A Doula? Here’s What You Need To Know

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Gabriel Fernandez’s Mother, Pearl Fernandez, Is Trying to Have Her Murder Conviction Thrown Out

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Gabriel Fernandez’s Mother, Pearl Fernandez, Is Trying to Have Her Murder Conviction Thrown Out

Photos: State of California, Gabriel’s Justice/Facebook

Gabriel Fernandez’s mother, Pearl Fernandez, is trying to have her murder conviction thrown out. The 37-year-old woman has been in jail since 2018 for the murder and torture of her eight-year old son.

Pearl Fernandez is petitioning the court for resentencing, hoping to have her first-degree murder and/or second-degree murder charges thrown out.

Fernandez is hoping to have her sentence vacated based off of new changes to the California state penal code. “I think that she feels that somehow maybe, you know, the special circumstance will be dismissed or maybe she’ll have a chance that the D.A. will agree with the petition,” Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Hatami said to CBSLA.

In June 2018, a judge sentenced Pearl Fernandez to life without parole. The judge charged Pearl Fernandez with the 2013 torture and killing of her eight-year-old son, Gabriel Fernandez.

On May 22, 2013, Gabriel Fernandez died after suffering a fatal beating from his mother. Pearl Fernandez was allegedly angry that he didn’t clean up his toys.

The details of Pearl and her boyfriend’s lengthy torture campaign against Gabriel Fernandez are both gruesome and numerous. Over the course of his eight-month stay with Isauro Aguirre, the couple broke his bones, burned him with cigarettes, pepper-sprayed him, and forced him to eat his own vomit as well as animal feces. And that is just a short-list of what they did.

The case came to national attention after the release of the 2020 Netflix documentary, “The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez“. The documentary shone a spotlight on the insidious nature of child abuse. It also highlighted the systematic failures of the social services system that fails to protect children.

Elected officials have expressed their disgust at Pearl Fernandez for trying to escape justice by taking advantage of updated laws.

“The policies and directives from my office and these new laws created by the Legislature are emboldening murderers of children to apply to be re-sentenced,” said Deputy DA Hatami to City News Service. “This is completely unfair to the surviving families and their loved ones.”

He continued: “Families now have to relive all the horror that was perpetrated upon a small and helpless child. Based upon all the evidence presented at the grand jury, which was made public, and the jury trial, Pearl Fernandez was a major participant in the torture and murder of little Gabriel.”

It seems obvious by the fact that Pearl Fernandez is trying to get out of jail after torturing her son to death, that she isn’t remorseful about her actions.

Any other mother who killed her son would probably want to spend the rest of her life in jail instead of trying to find a way to get out of it.

If you believe someone you know is experiencing–or committing–child abuse, there are resources to help. Call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child or 1-800-422-4453, or go to www.childhelp.org. Staying vigilant could help save a child like Gabriel Fernandez.

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