Since the series was announced, AfroLatinx and others in the Latino community rejoiced about the possibility of a strong Black Latina lead in Netflix’s “Siempre Bruja.” The lack of diversity in Latinx and Spanish-speaking media got viewers excited for Black (especially dark-skinned) Latina representation. The show, set in Cartagena, Colombia, follows the story of Carmen Eguiluz (Angely Gaviria), a witch who travels from the era of slavery and early colonization to the present to escape persecution.
However, one key factor that became impossible to miss once the series aired was the protagonist’s white boyfriend who she’s fighting to protect, amid her own persecution. He also happens to be her slavemaster’s son.
As Aramide A. Tinubu wrote in Shadow and Act: “Though Siempre Bruja desperately tries to make Cristobal the kindest man ever, it seems baffling that Carmen would choose to return to a time where she was enslaved and forced to keep her romance a secret instead of just making a life for herself in the modern day world. It made the entire pilot of the series unnerving to watch. Quite frankly, the slave owner/enslaved lover plotline makes the series as a whole suffer.”
Many took to Twitter to point out the issues with that kind of romance at a time when enslaved women were deprived of autonomy over their body.
STOP TELLING BLACK WOMEN TO MARTYR THEMSELVES FOR MEN WHO WOULD NEVER DO THE SAME FOR THEM. STOP CREATING CHARACTERS THAT FEED AFRO-LATINAS THIS TIRED CONCEPT THAT THEIR STORIES ARE ONLY WORTH TELLING IF THEY ARE WORTHY OF PROTECTING/UPHOLDING WHITE PATRIARCHY. #SIEMPREBRUJA https://t.co/F3uMSDejkX
— Melania-Luisa Marte (@sheismela_) February 4, 2019
#SiempreBruja has me thinking about why media forces the narrative of slaves being in “love” with their masters. That trope is analogous to someone in a Holocaust camp falling in love with a Nazi. It’s a deeply hurtful and ahistorical story
— J.A.B. (@MsJamilaAisha) February 2, 2019
Siempre Bruja on Netflix is a dub. Spanish and British colonization was only slightly different and racial discourse in El Caribe and South America is nuances but this slave master love story isn’t okay.
— Carmen Mojica (@Nana_Negrita) February 4, 2019
Some are even saying that this romance didn’t seem to be so central to the story on the show’s trailer.
Watching #SiempreBruja and I see exactly why a lot of this was kept out of promo. I don’t even feel comfortable with this plot. Y’all love making slaves fall in love with their masters. And y’all knew EXACTLY what y’all were doing not putting any of that in the trailers. pic.twitter.com/5AtSXDc82v
— N O V A (@_inthenova) February 2, 2019
I feel a little misled by the Siempre Bruja trailer. I was hoping to see a powerful, bad ass, BLACK witch fuck shit up. However, the storyline is another depiction of an enslaved woman falling in love with her master. There’s nothing remotely romantic or interesting about that!
— Shannen Perrie (@_Shannennnnn) February 4, 2019
See the trailer for yourself here:
Activist Angy Rivera noticed something else. One of the executive producers of the Telenovela “La Esclava Blanca,” which tells the story of an enslaved white woman —and also follows racist tropes— was a producer on “Siempre Bruja.” “Siempre Bruja” was also produced by Colombia’s Caracol Television, who was behind “La Esclava Blanca.”
— ANGY (@AskAngy) February 2, 2019
Our Digital Media Editor Amanda Alcántara explained on Twitter why anger over the show is justified. She wrote: “We’re out here trying to point out racism in many countries where discrimination isn’t even acknowledged & the show perpetuates a narrative that undermines slavery & power dynamics of that era.”
So many were counting on #SiempreBruja to the point where it even felt like most of the promo was coming from fellow AfroLatinx who weren’t even paid to do that. And the story ended up following the same tropes we’re so used to seeing that enable white supremacy in Latin America.
— Amanda Alcántara (@YoSoy_Amanda) February 4, 2019
Netflix has yet to answer to the backlash on social media. We reached out to the show’s press representative and didn’t immediately receive a response.