The Netflix Original Series, Siempre Bruja , better known as Always A Witch in the States, first premiered on the streaming platform in February 2019. It was received to mixed reviews due to its controversial plot. The series, however, fared well with viewers and a second season was released this past February 2020.
The first season consisted of 10 episodes that followed Carmen Eguiluz (Angely Gaviria), a black slave and bruja (witch) from the 17th century as she travels to the future in hopes of saving the love of her life.
In the year 1646 in Cartegena, Columbia, Carmen is accused of witchcraft and sentenced to be burnt at the stake. Her lover Cristobal (Leonard Vanderaa), who is a white man and the son of Carmen’s master attempts to save her but is shot by his own father who says he rather has no son than one who is in love with a slave and a witch. Carmen is devastated. While awaiting her death in prison, she meets a powerful wizard named Aldemar (Luis Fernando Hoyos) who in exchange for her help, offers Carmen the chance to save Cristobal’s life. Carmen accepts and instead of dying at the stake, she is transported to present day Cartagena. Carmen experiences freedom for the first time, learns how to use a cellphone and how to properly use the word hashtag, and makes friends who aid her in saving Cristobal and battling the evil wizard Lucien who wants to destroy Carmen and steal her powers.
Carmen Eguiluz, played by Angely Gaviria, is an Afro-Latina actress who hails from the same city as her character. An exciting facet of the series was seeing an unambiguous Afro-Latina play the lead role of a witch. Many people of color are used to seeing white witches as the center focus in a TV series while their black counterparts are minuscule characters (Prudence in the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and Queenie in American Horror Story: Coven.) Many people were looking forward to seeing an Afro woman play the main witch in a series. Unfortunately, when the plot was revealed that Angely would be playing a slave who was in love with her master’s son and wanted to go to the future to save him only to return to the past where she would be a slave again, many were not here for it. Some felt the slave and slave master love narrative is played out. Others thought it was disrespectful and felt that there are more creative and innovative ways that the writers could have written Carmen’s character and her story.
Though Carmen and Cristobal’s story was a large part of the story-line, Siempre Bruja offers so much more. In general, it’s a light-hearted show with its fair share of drama. There’s an episode where Carmen helps a friend get rid of an ex who is blackmailing her and another where Carmen, using an Ouija board, summons a ghost whom she has to help with remembering his identity. Throughout the series, there are a number of adventures that Carmen takes on as well obstacles and inner struggles that help to propel her into gaining her full powers.
One aspect the show fell short on was its lack of diversity. Though the main character is a black woman, the only other person of color besides the slaves is Carmen’s friend Daniel (Dubán Andres Prado). It would have been great if Carmen would have interacted with more persons of color in present day Cartagena, especially coming from the 17th century. You would think Carmen would be skeptical to persons of lighter skin being so friendly to her when she just left a time where those same people considered her inferior and wanted her dead. Then again, she is trying to save a white man she is in love with so color doesn’t seem all too important to her. Plus, the writers and creators of the show want to appeal to an international audience and most likely feel that to do that they need to have more fair skinned people unfortunately.
It would have also been nice for the show to expand and give background on the history of the magic that Carmen practiced. Afro-Latino spirituality, religion, and practices are not well known to a large number of people outside the community. This could have been an opportunity to shed light on the history of the people and their magic, where it comes from, and specific beliefs and practices. It would also have given more depth to her character and why her powers were so important to her.
Overall, the first season of Siempre Bruja is an entertaining show and if you are a fan of anything withchy and magical, this will appeal to you.