SIEMPRE BRUJA FAILED AFROLATINX
*pours a glass of wine*
*chugs glass of wine*
*starts to pour another glass but instead decides it best to drink straight from the bottle*
I am not exaggerating when I say you need at least a bottle of wine to make it through this show. While I was super excited for Siempre Bruja when I first heard about it, my excitement diminished when I saw that her love interest was a White man (correction: colonizer) in the first trailer. Then, it declined even more when I saw that the cast only had two Black actors, Angely Gaviria who plays the main character and Duban Prado who plays Daniel.
Unlike others, I was aware of the colonizer-slave dynamic early on. However, I was still shocked at how bad it was. I don’t know how I expected them to fall in love, but having them fall for each other when she is literally on the slave block was by far the most disrespectful and downright comical thing I have ever seen. Imagine finding the love of your life when you’re being pushed to your knees by your seller to then make googly eyes with this mediocre looking White man who sweeps you off your feet by asking his dad to purchase you.
The show could have possibly been more enjoyable outside of the garbage premise, if the acting from the cast wasn’t so lackluster. They give us supporting characters who quite honestly are pretty dull and have nothing to add to the storyline. The only supporting character who was semi interesting was maybe Johnny Ki played by Dylan Fuentes, not even Daniel, the other Black actor, whose character was quite frankly an ass at times.
By the time I reached episode 6, I was over listening to Carmen’s friends and seeing her cry over her White man and just wanted us to get back to the villian Lucien. Where was the action? The drama? And most importantly, the Black people?!?! Trying to finish the show seemed more like a chore than anything enjoyable... so I gave up.
To put it bluntly, Siempre Bruja is a story under the White Latinx/Mestizx gaze of slavery, race, and racism in Colombia full of blatant Black erasure and a colorblind approach to a Black woman’s experience. To bring Carmen into the future and have her not only willingly trust White people but also not actively look for Black people or be shocked that Black people aren’t enslaved anymore is absolutely ridiculous. In fact, Carmen is pleasantly surprised at the fact that women have more freedom and rights than the fact that Black people are no longer slaves, showing how obviously the writers of this story thought Carmen’s central identity is about being a woman and a bruja instead of focusing on her being an enslaved Black bruja. To not only erase her identity as a Black woman but to place Blackness in a country like Colombia in the background is absolutely disrespectful but also White Latin American history 101.
I know that people like to pretend that slavery wasn’t extremely dehumanizing, violent, and traumatic and make it seem that slaves were merely lifelong servants (which is also problematic). But, to be enslaved was to be subjected to lifelong cruelty, trauma, and abuse of all forms. The reality is that the “relationship” between Carmen and Cristobal would actually be a situation where Cristobal abuses and rapes Carmen. That is the historically accurate portrayal, which quite frankly I don’t care to see, not one where she makes googly eyes at him at the slave block.
You can’t keep creating these fantastical portrayals of slave-master/colonizers relationships that not only serve to lessen the atrocity that was slavery but to also portray colonizers as benevolent or kind people. A slave cannot have a consensual relationship with a colonizer y punto. You can’t keep erasing Blackness from Latin America and adopting this colorblind, ‘racism doesn’t exist here’ position. There are so many ways that this story could have gone that did not need to center a relationship between a slave and colonizer. There are so many ways that this story could have centralized an enslaved Black bruja’s experience in Colombia during slavery and present day. There are so many ways that this story could have actually included Black characters and made it a show worth watching.
This feels like a slap in the face to Black Latinxs. We want stories centralizing our experiences as Black Latinxs. So Netflix, please do us a favor and don’t help produce these white apologist tv shows or films. Find Black writers, producers, and directors with original stories centralizing our experiences. Next time you think of writing or producing a script where a slave falls in love with a colonizer, stop, throw it in the trash, and burn it.
is TGM’s Associate Editor from NYC.