WHY THIS CHICANO IS MAKING 'BRUJOS,' A WEB SERIES ABOUT MAGICAL QUEER PEOPLE OF COLOR
BY RAQUEL REICHARD • NOVEMBER 18, 2016, LATINA
It’s been a difficult year for LGBTQ Latinxs. In June, the community was hit with the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history when a gunman charged into Orlando’s Pulse nightclub on Latin night, killing 49 people and injuring dozens more – most of whom were Latinx. More recently, the country elected Donald Trump, a candidate who centered his campaign on anti-Mexican, anti-immigrant rhetoric and proposals, and his running mate Mike Pence, arguably the biggest political opponent of LGBTQ rights of our time, as the next president and vice president, respectively.
Overcoming these atrocious moments of hate takes power and resilience – qualities Ricardo Gamboa wants to emphasize in queer and trans people of color in his upcoming web series, Brujos.
The show, which debuts on January 20, the day Trump-Pence take office, is about LGBTQ grad school students who are also witches and are battling the descendants of early U.S. colonists, who happen to be witch-hunters.
According to the Chicago native, New York-living Mexican-American, Brujos is both a reclaiming of the mystical knowledges of our ancestors and a statement about the magiain every queer and trans person of color.
Ahead, Gamboa, 35, talked with us about the show, his experience with brujería, why media representations of LGBTQ people of color are so essential and more.
How would you describe Brujos?
It’s a queer of color web series comprised of 12 seven-minute episodes, and each one corresponds with the signs in the Zodiac cycle. The show follows four gay Latino doctoral students as they try to survive a witch-hunt led by the straight, white wealthy male descendants of the first New World colonizers.
Where did the idea behind Brujos come from?
It came from my own research and from growing up Mexican, where alternative ways of knowing and magic are part of your everyday culture. But it also came from asking questions, like what makes it possible to regulate people’s bodies and why do we see queer people as health hazards. What queer and trans people of color see in the media seldom reflects our reality. And when we do see ourselves represented in media, it reinforces values of dominant culture, using affluence, for example, as ways to affirm and represent non-normative people. People of color, queer folks and working-class people are grossly underrepresented in media, and so a lot of the show is comprised of testimonies from queer men of color, my own academic research and my own experience with brujería. I’m trying to make something that is invested in social change and entertainment.
How have you, personally, been influenced by brujería?
It’s something I always grew up with. As I got older, I just thought, well, that’s a folklore, shit my grandmother believes. Then when I went through my first major heartbreak, it hit me really hard, and I went to see a therapist. But that made too much sense for me, so I went to a psychic and tarot reader, and everything they said, down to the day and hour, happened. There’s something about heartbreak. It makes you emotionally raw and open, and that helped me to accept these other things, like my connections to brujería and toward psychic intelligences.
This, at its core, seems to be a series about LGBTQ friendships and relationships, particularly among queer people of color. Why is this representation so important?
Brujos is so important. It’s not just about gay Latinos. The cast includes a lot of women of color and trans people of color. It was important for me to create media that looks at the intersection of these identities and how these identities shape and affect each other and create forms of community across different movements for social change. Also, you do see relationships and intimacy. In mainstream media, we see the same tropes about people of color and queer people, you know, someone will get AIDS or will be beaten up and killed or participates in some aspect of street criminality. I didn’t want to continue to limit our imagination. If we don’t see alternative imagery, we can’t imagine alternatives to dominate social relations and structures.
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