By Zoe Florius, A&E Editor
This article contains spoilers.
“Siempre Bruja,” a Netflix original, was advertised as being a show centered on the power and strength of an Afro-Colombian witch named Carmen. The show is set in 17thcentury Cartagena, where Carmen is enslaved. At a slave auction, a slave owner’s son, Cristobal, spots Carmen and becomes infatuated with her. Eventually, Carmen and Cristobal form a relationship, and are portrayed to be in love. When Cristobal’s parents find out about their relationship they accuse Carmen of hexing him to fall in love with her. Cristobal’s mother also attributed Carmen’s ability to read and write to her witchcraft – not her intelligence. Carmen is sentenced to be burned at the stake but mysteriously survives. While she’s on fire, she’smysteriously transported to the year 2018 in modern day Cartagena.
The show presents time in a choppy manner, cutting from past to present at random. In one of her flashbacks, Carmen sees Cristobal being killed by his father, who cannot fathom his son being bewitched by a slave, and thus disowns him. She learns that her purpose for being in the present-day is because a wizard needs a favor from her. The wizard claims if she helps him, he can turn back time for her, allowing her to prevent Cristobal’s death.
Apart from its confusing use of flashbacks and foreshadowing, “Siempre Bruja” didn’t actually air on Netflix as it had been advertised. The title of the show on Netflix (for English speakers, at least) is not “Siempre Bruja,” but “Always a Witch.” Similarly, the show is not in Spanish, but is English-dubbed. I decided to manually switch the show’s audio to Spanish and use English subtitles.
The show’s portrayal of consensual love between a slave and a slaveholder is damaging. While the lovers may have had legitimate feelings for one another, the overall dynamic of their relationship would never have allowed for them to exist as equals: Cristobal and his family owned Carmen. To imply slaves found themselves in situations where their owners were at all consensual is a disservice, and it undermines the brutality of slavery as a whole. Cristobal saw Carmen at a slave auction and decided that he wanted to have her – and he did. The show’s romanization of the slave and slave owner dynamic was tasteless at best.
I will continue to watch the “Siempre Bruja,” as its visuals are pleasing, but it needs to be said that the show’s foundation is problematic at best.