Call them Brujas (Spanish for witches), an all Latina skate crew right here in our borough. But they’re not just women skating in a male-dominated sport but are also socially aware challenging and questioning the world we live in.
For the Brujas girls, their crew is about more than skating: it’s about friendship, and the radical potential of sisterhood to foster real support systems, outside the mainstream social norms. They see the preventative and healing power of friendship as a source of collective empowerment, especially in the context of Western medicine and philosophy, where it’s discouraged to tap into extra-spiritual realms.
“So much of our world is described through patriarchal, rigid, academic, medical ways, and concepts of understanding the world scientifically,” Arianna says. “Traditionally behind those perspectives are just men. In traditional indigenous cultures, which a lot of our cultures are derived from, women were in charge of health and community and motherhood and wellness and food. Not in ways that were demeaning but in ways that were powerful.”
For that reason, female collectives like Brujas create spaces of trust, openness, and agency. “It’s significantly important to me that people feel like they’re an actor in their own health,” Arianna says, referring to physical and mental well-being. “If you can’t trust doctors, at least you can trust your friends … Whether you’re with some dude who was really fucked up to you, or you’re actually chemically imbalanced and need a different kind of support system around you than what our traditional society offers us… That’s definitely part of the fabric of what we do, how we see the world.”
In the words of photographer Laurel Golio, the women of Brujas, an all-Latina skate crew in the Bronx, “are cool as shit.” Golio took the photos in 10 of Twelve, her project about the crew — the 10th in a series of 12 photo projects she produced monthly in 2015 — over an afternoon in the Bronx at 157th and River Avenue, where the Brujas’ skate park is located. The women refer to the park simply as “157.”
“About a year ago, I had read an interview with Arianna [Maya Gil] and Sheyla [Grullón], the founders of Brujas, and thought it would be cool to photograph them,” Golio says of the project’s genesis. “During the course of 12 of Twelve, I thought a lot about subculture(s) and identity and how those ideas intersected with gender and performance. I kept thinking about Brujas because they seemed to touch on a lot of those things, so I reached out to Arianna.”
Arianna arranged an informal meet-up with Golio and the Brujas at 157 in October, and in the images she produced that day, “I was trying to capture the energy of the crew, the environment, the feel of the park and the surrounding area,” Golio says. “The members spoke to the importance of all-female spaces and how those spaces intersect with race, community, heteronormativity, systems of oppression — they literally covered all these topics within a few hours. Not to fan-girl too hard, but I was really inspired by the crew.”
These women are definitely bad-ass in every sense of the word and make us proud. They are a reflection of what makes Bronxites a strong people.