Noun / bru·ja / ˈbrüˌhä
Meaning: Witch/ Witchcraft
Slang: A straight up Bitch
The term “bruja” needs to be decolonized and given back its power. It is a term of respect, empowerment and fierce feminism. We cannot forget what a radical thing it was for our abuelitas to serve their communities at the same time that their communities and their brown, feminine bodies were under attack.
So what's the meaning of bruja? Ostensibly, all women in colonial mexico and latin america, like their counterparts throughout christianity were suspected of being witches on the basis of gender, but women of colonized groups were suspect on multiple grounds. Indian women, african-origin women, and racially mixed women - whether indo-mestiza or afro-mestiza - were suspect by virtue of being female, by virture of deriving from non-christian, or "diabolic" religions and cultures, and by virtue of being colonized or enslaved people who might rebel and use their alleged magical power at any moment.
la Bruja"—a female practitioner of spiritual, sexual, and healing knowledges—in our contemporary cultural imaginary grounded in a legacy of the otherization of women healers in Europe and las Américas. Brujas" are feared for their knowledge and power and hence subjected to oppressive treatment. I argue for the a bruja positionality within Chicana/Latina studies that includes developing our own bruja-like epistemologies. As a practice of what Gloria Anzaldúa might call "spiritual activism," a bruja positionality is built on healing the internalized beliefs that demonize la Bruja and the transgressive spirituality and sexuality that she represents.
In many Latin American cultures, words began to develop and shift into different meanings. The slang for a Bruja began in Mexico and carried its way down the rest of the chain of Spanish-speaking countries as a derogatory term for a woman--the witch is essentially a bitch in contemporary Spanish linguistics.
When using the word as a feminine noun, it describes a woman looking un-kept or appearing to be unpleasant, hag-ish and is more often used to refer to an older woman. Hispanic women themselves use the word to put themselves down, to describe a bad hair day, one would say:
"Yo parece como una bruja con este pajon de pello"
"I look like a witch with all this poofy hair."
or to say "se ve guapa / chula junta a mi que parece como una bruja."
"I look terrible in comparison to another female companion, archnemesis etc."
However, La Bruja represents power and mystics. Despite the unpleasantries she is faced with (it's hard out there for a witch when your career is based on the hardships), I still want to Maleficent the word--cast Angelina Jolie and put everyone on board that being a Bruja is not a bad thing!
Reflecting back on the torture that women of the 17th century endured because of this word, we see the duality of female persecution and survival within the Caribbean community. Taking back this remark on women, La Bruja, as a woman is neither good nor bad, has inexplicably survived in-spite of overwhelming persecution and her toughness is what conveys her beauty.