Opinion: How Netflix’s ‘Siempre Bruja: Always a Witch’ Missed The Mark
(The article contains spoilers of the new Netflix show ‘Siempre Bruja’.)
The resurgence of spirituality has been dominating the small screen. From the Charmed reboot, The Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina and now Siempre Bruja : Always a Witch. I first learnt of Siempre Bruja through scattered Instagram posts and Black Twitter. What I gathered from the initial trailer, I thought it was a story of a young Black woman finding her power after escaping execution in the 17th century . A show to illustrate Colombia’s rich culture besides cartels? Um, yes? Sign me up ! This is a story that I (thought) I was waiting for.
The first episode introduced us to Carmen Eguiluz (portrayed by the gorgeous Angely Gaviria)- a brilliant 19 year old Afro Colombian witch, curandera (healer), time traveler and slave. Seeing a dark skinned young woman imbued with magical powers and a kind heart made me happy. Skills cultivated by her uncle, Carmen became a curandera and used her talents to help slaves escape from their captors or cure wounds with a mixture of herbs and magic. The story unfolds around the slave/ slave owner romance trope that ruined the series for me. Carmen is in a relationship with the benevolent slave owner’s son, Cristobal. He was willing to renounce his religion to be with her. Cristobal was shot by his father for loving Carmen, a Black slave accused “bewitching” Cristobal was sentenced to death. Carmen travels to the future to help save Cristobal and eventually return to the past to be with him.
Return to slavery.
Why can’t there be a world where magical Black women exist for themselves?
Instead of a Black woman willingly (almost happily) returning to a life of bondage to save her lover who happens to be her captor/master ? Keep it. I thought Carmen was going to acclimate to life in the present and we were going to follow her journey as a witch in Cartegena. I am not implying that being a Black woman anywhere is an easy task albeit a more viable alternative than returning to bondage to be with her slave owner/ lover is wild to say the least. Hiding behind the “love conquers all/ power of love” platitude like Carmen is not returning to the cruel reality as a Black slave in the 17th Century ? No one is asking for these slave/slave owner love stories. That should not be a form of story development in 2019. Adding romantic elements to offset the cruelty occurring during the time period is irresponsible — insert Amandla Stenberg starring in that Nazi love story no one wanted. I thought I would’ve seen Carmen interact with more of the Afro-Colombians. I wish the show delved into her past life as a healer and a witch using her powers and remedies to help folk in the community . Unfortunately, Carmen is one of the few main Black characters in the show and she’s solving everyone else’s problems.
I appreciate Carmen, though. Seeing her traverse the modern world. I am glad she was portrayed by a dark skinned actress instead of the preset racially ambiguous model. A Black witch with beautiful, natural hair and a fiery, nurturing spirit. The fact she is Black purposefully and not an afterthought like JK Rowling making Hermione Granger a Black witch after the series ended in The Cursed Child . A. character where I would see myself in as an Afrolatinx woman. In a world of white witches hoarding the spotlight while Black witches are done absolutely dirty. I’m look at you, Vampire Diaries. Bonnie Bennett became the magical Black girl that sacrificed herself to save her white friends. A powerful Black witch dealing with so much trauma and loss reduced to nothing. The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and their treatment of Prudence and Rosalind followed suit. I am tired of shows adding unjust consequences to Black witches on the quest of reclaiming their power or having their roles delegated to the magical support system. I am tired of Black witches getting tethered to racist constructs even in a “magical” world.