To the many practicing brujas out there, “brujeria” is a way to heal intergenerational traumas in both themselves and in their communities. It’s a re-connection to many of the esoteric practices that were nearly erased by colonization and a reclaiming of the traditions that have been deemed “bad” or “evil” by Western Anglo society. Today “brujeria” has become an umbrella term that describes a wide variety of applied practices and belief systems that are a far cry from the strange representations we see in theaters and the demonic superstitions your Abuela warned you about. The sudden rise in the popularity of the term—as well as people’s openness to it—has also made for a rather rich representation of brujas online where you can find anything from Curanderas and Santeras to Tarot readers and Hoodoo practitioners.
It’s a growing online community and Valeria Ruelas has entered as “The Mexican Witch,” where she serves viewers energetic readings and “witch tips” on how everyone can incorporate a little practical brujeria into their lives. Like many modern day practitioners, Ruelas injects her personality, her politics, and cultural background into what she calls her “energy work,” a term that describes the spiritual toolkit she draws from.
“I consider myself eclectic. As as eclectic I don’t really chose [one thing] in particular, I incorporate a lot of aspects of witchcraft, magic, paganism, into my own practice and have kind of made a fusion of that,” she told HipLatina. It’s that same fusion that has given her the freedom to inject her own special flavor into her practice.
“For me, the Mexican aspect of my spirituality and practice is really big. Hence the name, ‘The Mexican Witch.’ And why I would chose that? Because for me a special part about the magic I do is that it is from Mexico and it has Mexican art, and Mexican roots, and Mexican stories” she adds.
Ruelas immigrated to the US with her mother from Meoqui, Chihuahua and relocated in New Mexico and then relocated again when she moved to the East Coast to for college. “I went to Tufts University, in Summerville Cambridge, Massachusetts. I ended up staying there because at the time it was the job market. If I really were to describe my roots and where I’m from, or where my parents lived I always say New Mexico because that’s where I grew up,” she says.
But like many who feel pulled to the bruja life, Ruelas felt compelled to leave the typical 9 to 5 job and pushed to follow her calling. “I am a full time professional bruja doing work for people, but also doing it for myself. Energy work, that’s my entire life, I don’t even think of it as a career anymore it’s my lifestyle, and because I created this lifestyle where I can sustain myself and I think that’s part of the magic. With your own might and with your own blessings and your ancestors behind you, all of this becomes a possibility. And for me that’s definitely what’s happened,” she says.
Like most Brujas of color, Ruelas is fighting for visibility, something especially difficult in the city she’s been calling home for the last year—New Orleans. In a field where popularity translates into dollars, a lack of visibility paired with the “mainstream” desire to see a certain type of “witch” means decreased economic access for brujas of color. “I would say that white women are definitely very visible and I say White brujas tend to get more attention than Black or Latina brujas too. So that’s a big deal,” she adds.
Enter any strategically placed Voodoo shop in New Orleans and chances are the items being sold are derived from Black culture and the ones making the money are White. “I think there’s way too much of that, you know? Claiming something that’s not yours in NOLA, and White people have capitalism on their side. Of course there are Black owned Voodoo shops, but in comparison they’re kind of dimmed because there are way more shops owned by White people,” she said. Often times even within the systems they’ve inherited Black and Brown voices have been hijacked, repackaged, and fundamentally obscured. It’s something that Ruelas fights by working to be visible as a Brown witch as well as being a queer witch, yet another identity she says is routinely discounted in the spirit community via sexist language and the affirmation of gender binaries.
“There are some brujas who do not use correct pronouns and there are brujas that are not very LGBT friendly that are prominent in the community. So I say that’s a problem because we’re not holding ourselves accountable,” she told HipLatina. “There still is a lot of patriarchy and sexism and fear of LGBT folks even though this community is known to have high populations of LGBT folks.”
Today, many online brujas are now using their platforms to take a political stance and to use their magic as a way to cope with the increased ugliness we’re seeing taken against people of color in the US. When HipLatina asked Ruelas what she thought the role of brujeria was in this political climate her feelings were clear.
“I would say that [the role of] brujeria is to get rid of the nastiness, the colonialism, and all that awful stuff that has been put on us and instead embrace where we see ourselves in a very true power, liberated, especially sexually, especially when it comes to the things that have a hold of us. Which really includes in my opinion, sexuality and gender,” she said. “I think we’re mixing the energy of the world. I think we’re really—just like our ancestors have done—you know six or seven generations back women would have had to fight this way. We are healers. And I think specifically the difference is that, yes we heal as a collective, but we are really healing ourselves. So I think brujeria contributes to empowerment.”
For more on brujeria, empowerment, and appointments, follow Ruelas on Instagram.