“Brujos” Brings Latinx Magic Back to the Witch Stories Stealing Our Screen Time

The magic-wielding academic queers are at it again in season three of Brujos—and this time, they’re incorporating even more witchy content about sexually non-conforming people of color.

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Brujos, a self-defined “queer-of-color webseries,” anticipated the renewed pop culture fervor for witches in the mainstream, and they’re leveraging their platform to advance the unique and long-standing Latinx, Indigenous and Black magic traditions that extend far beyond Salem, Wicca or Charmed

The show, which follows four queer Latino witches through grad school (and a witch hunt led by wealthy, white men on campus), confronts legacies of racism and showcases the varied stories of women of color and gender-non binary folks. Viewers who tuned in to season two saw an intense discussion of Foucault in the graduate seminar paralleled with white supremacist cannibals who want to eliminate the coven; radical acts of eating, drinking and drug use meant to temporarily disrupt homophobia, undermine fatphobia and the dismissal of pleasure seeking behaviors; and magic wielded as protection against patriarchy, with an AfroLatinx santera at the center of the story.

The creators and actors behind and on-screen in Brujos, especially Ricardo Gamboa, are invested in representing the ways in which radical ideologies can be, and are, both imagined and co-opted. They disrupt the pathologizing nature of rhetoric and discussions about brujx and repurpose racialized and sexualized rhetorics about magic to imagine solidarity. While rhetoric is a tool to manipulate the masses into believing something by organizing ideas and opinions as perceived fact, the show nonetheless is atypical in its showcasing of inclusion, broadly defined, within culture industries.

“I loved working on a piece that was dealing with being brown and queer and femme and butch and asexual,” Reshmi Hazra Rustebakke, one of the show’s directors, told Ms. “As people, we don’t always get an opportunity to define ourselves, because the world is too busy doing that for us. This show allowed all of us define ourselves and that instilled confidence in us as well as greater freedom to go for huge risks and know that we had our team to catch us. It was liberating.” Rustebakke’s comments demonstrate that the project is freedom-generating—in Brujos, queers and women of color set the terms of self-representation.

Quenna Barnett, who plays Tammy, noted that brujeria functions as a tool for combatting oppression within the scope of the show. “The way I live my life now, after being in community with black, queer, feminist organizers and artists who also fall into this framework—and by that I mean, we believe, try to work toward and live by the premise that we’re not free until the most oppressed black queer and trans folk are free—and because I’ve been privileged to learn and be a part of such communities, it informs how I operate generally, which informed greatly my work on Tammy,” Barnett told Ms. “I think she, specifically, is fed up with traditional, or white, feminism, that still leaves most of us out of the picture. She’s got a lot of righteous anger and is figuring out how to channel and filter that through her newfound abilities.”

As Brujos channels frustration and outright rage against the ways in which gender, sexual and racially non-conforming positionalities are not articulated through mainstream feminist politics, it also expands our conception of “ability.” While the show makes “ability” flexible through magic, it negotiates and challenges the very narrow optics of normativity. In its feminist and queer of color principles, Brujos uses brujeria to help oppressed peoples imagine their freedom beyond simple cultural incorporation.

Funny, bawdy and shot with high-resolution production value, Brujos is a refreshing and innovative commentary on imperialism and intersectionality equally appropriate for an intro Women’s Studies or Latino Studies class or for personal consumption. It combines healing, curanderismo and Santería with a cutting-edge gender, race and sexuality studies framework that makes for a standout stream—and blows away the other Basic Witches dominating our screen time.

About

Nicole M. Guidotti-Hernández is a professor at Emory and Charles Warren Fellow at Harvard. She received her doctorate degree from Cornell University in English, with a graduate minor in Latina/o Studies in 2004. She is the author "Unspeakable Violence: Narratives of Citizenship Mourning and Loss in Chicana/o and U.S. Mexico National Imaginaries."