Photos by Laurel Golio
In 2014, New York locals Arianna Maya Gil and Sheyla Grullón decided to do something about the mostly male skate scene. Together they formed Brujas, a collective of girls who love to skate. The skaters, who range in age from 15 to 27, gather from all over New York City: Soundview, King’s Bridge, Washington Heights, and the Lower East Side.
Brujas have taken over the Riverview Skate Park bordering the Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, directly influencing the politics of the space. “The skate park might no longer be a man cave of refuge anymore,” Gil explains. “Less and less spaces exist that are just places for men to get together and let their misogyny go unchecked.” Establishing a headquarters at the Bronx skate park has changed the gender dynamics of the park itself, says Gil. “It’s not rare to see a new girl at the park.” Many of the new skaters take videos, photograph their friends, or practice their first ollies.
In many ways, the Brujas skate crew encompasses a spiritual practice. “Practicing magic and practicing skateboarding are really similar because it’s all about your energy, intention, and personal perspective,” says Gil. “For a lot of people, it can serve as a vehicle of healing.” In many brujería practices in Latin America and the Caribbean, brujas are intuitive channels between the spirit world and issues in the real world.
Skating ties into many social and political issues and the Brujas are not afraid to point out inequalities. Gil, who has been skating since she was fifteen years old, has seen the increased policing of youth of color. “Back when I started skating, getting your board confiscated was completely unheard of,” Gil recalls. Today, many skaters are moving from the streets and into skate parks, something that has been driven by a rapid gentrification—in the sanctioned skate parks, skaters are less likely to be bothered by police or neighbors.
In the meantime, Brujas continue to build community in person—on 157th and River Avenue—and online. Through their Instagram, they share skate footage of fearless mujeres and connect skaters. If you are a New York skater, feel free to drop them a direct message, they’re always open to meeting fellow brujas. “There’s all these male gangs that run around the Bronx and Uptown,” says Gil, “Brujas is not a counterpart to any male gang. It’s our own gang.”