Fierce Boss Ladies

In These Trying Times, Boricua Bruja Emilia Ortiz Provides A Digital Space For Healing

It’s an understatement to say that we are living through some tough times. Children are being ripped away from their families. The people of Puerto Rico have not received the aid they need. Mass shootings have become normalized. And the suicide rate has risen 30 percent in nearly two decades. During these turbulent moments, it’s evident that the United States has a mental health crisis and needs to take strides to properly address it.

Healing and spirituality can be a hell of a medicine for some folks. And for Emilia Ortiz, a spiritual guide and mental health advocate, empathy is one thing that can help save us.

Ortiz, or @Ethereal.1 as she’s known on Instagram, uses the social media platform to raise awareness of mental health concerns in the ‘hood and offer understanding, love and guidance to those suffering. Raised in Flatbush, Brooklyn, a predominantly working-class and people of color neighborhood in the New York borough, she understands from personal experience why her work is essential.

“Growing up in Brooklyn in the ‘90s was weird. There was a lot of smoke in the air, that type of shit. It was a very different time,” the Boricua bruja told FIERCE.

She remembers snippets of her childhood, from going to the bodega with her father to get 40s, to hearing Caribbean music blast in the streets, to the pressed juices she’d get on the corner before the hipsters gentrified it. For Ortiz, a child of the Caribbean diaspora, she always had a little of la isla down the block.

Her mother was a social worker, but the topic of mental health wasn’t up for family discussion, particularly because it wasn’t considered a reality that applied to them.

“My father grew up in the projects, and it’s one of those things that with mental health, we don’t have time for that shit. It’s white people problems. We don’t got time for it. As time went on, I didn’t understand that my father had alcoholism,” said Ortiz of her late father, who also struggled with a heart condition as a child.

Although Ortiz said that everyone in her family had a spiritual gift, she didn’t understand why these capabilities weren’t used for mental health issues. As she grew up, later even developing her own gifts, she gained a strong sense of cultural knowledge and now attributes her elders’ disconnection to how emotions in this society are perceived.

????throwback // I somewhat miss being in front of the camera this way????

A post shared by Emilia Ortiz (@ethereal.1) on

“It’s easier looking at your body being afflicted than your mind. Culturally, we are supposed to be strong, and it’s seen as not strong. People don’t want to acknowledge mental health because they see it as a sign of weakness. I think people feel that if you do [acknowledge] that, you are implying that you have a spiritual disconnect, which isn’t true,” she said.

For low-income families, Ortiz says mental health issues come off as more of a burden.

“Working-class folks don’t have time for that. We don’t have time for physical illness, either. But when it comes to your job, they’re more likely to understand a physical disability or issue than a mental health issue. We all have shame associated with it. It trickles into our spirituality,” she said.

So when Ortiz struggled with her own mental health in high school, she innately knew she needed to talk with someone. Although she tried addressing these issues with her peers, her concerns weren’t well received. “It was hard for me to have friends who were understanding and open to having a conversation about this stuff, because when I would, people would be like ‘Ayo, man, ain’t nobody trying to talk about that right now, that’s mad depressing,’” she remembers. “It needs to be OK to have these conversations. It needs to be normalized.”

Mental Health awareness month challenge! Please share & RP! I’m trying to make this go viral. I’m challenging everyone to do this, in an effort to raise awareness about mental health. Let’s get the conversation started! With ourselves, & those we love! It ain’t a cure all, but it’s how we can get the ball rolling. You can start by asking “how are you feeling today?” & following up with questions like “why?”, “how can I help?”, “what can we do to change this?”. Instead of just moving onto a new subject. Let’s take the stigma & taboo/awkwardness from this, by normalizing the conversation. #mentalhealthawareness #mentalhealth #depression #anxiety #bpd #ptsd #ocd #psychosis #schizophrenia #mania #mentalhealthawarenessmonth #challenge #mentalhealthawarenesschallenge #mentalhealthadvocate

A post shared by Emilia Ortiz (@ethereal.1) on

Although she did reach out for help from her high school counselor, the wealth of her knowledge was given to her by her abuela.

“She really taught me to be this multifaceted bruja. I come at things from all angles,” Ortiz said.

Even though her grandmother’s lessons didn’t directly address mental health, it was spirituality and learning to combat matters on the day to day that helped her gain passion in her work. From learning about essential oils to candles, Ortiz feels the need to spread the knowledge that she has gained to help people, especially in these trying times. She hopes to be that voice she wish she had when she came up.

“It’s about helping as many people as I can, even if it’s through a video. That’s what makes people not feel so helpless, to feel not so hopeless. When we are educated, we tend to feel more empowered and like we have more options,” said Ortiz.

That’s why she uses Instagram as her main platform to empower folks. Technology has made these kinds of services accessible for people who may not have other mental health resources present. While she acknowledges social media can be a dangerous place for people living with mental health concerns, it can also be a site for education and affirmation. She hopes that if someone watches her videos or comes across her work, it will inspire them to seek help, regardless if it’s with her or someone else.

And with 122 thousand followers, including people from Africa and Europe, her work is definitely resonating with many.

“Sometimes I be like, my little Brooklyn ass, why do all these people know who I am? But I fuck with it,” Ortiz laughs.

With her strong demeanor coupled with her powerful sense of empathy, Ortiz always lets her clients know that it takes a lot of effort to work on yourself. “Be prepared! It’s gonna be hard work. We will get into the nitty gritty and get it addressed. Be prepared to do the work.”

And that goes with anything worth having in life, right?

Read: These Latinas Will Give You The Mental Health Boost You Need

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These Online Botanicas Will Satisfy The Bruja In You

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These Online Botanicas Will Satisfy The Bruja In You

With young Latinxs reclaiming the bruja identity, the demand for access to novenas, herbs and other specially crafted ritual tools has grown tremendously. Luckily, these Latinx-owned online botanicas have made it easy for brujas, or anyone who wants to dive deeper into the practice, to get their hands on the goods. Whether you’re looking to conjure up more cash flow or secure some extra protection from those pesky mal de ojos, these shops have the magia you need.

1. The Flowerchild Bruja

You know you’ve received some real tesoro when you open your delivery and see the holographic cellophane. Unmistakable and unique products are what make The Flowerchild Bruja’s shop un cielo de flores. Garden Smudge Sticks adorned with colorful flowers and loose herbs packaged in clear hearts make this online botanica a must-visit if you’re looking to manifest more love and beauty into your life.

2. Brooklyn Brujeria

No forlorn-looking saints and pale stricken Marys here! Brookyn Brujeria offers a fresh and modern take on the classic bruja necessity of novena candles. At $10 a candle, you can enhance the vibrations and style of your space without blowing all your chavo. With intentions like Boss Bitch and F*ck Outta Here, these ain’t your abuelitas’ novenas.

3. The Hoodwitch Store

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Thank you for all of your love & support to those who have been readers and customers of @thehoodwitch over the years. ♥️You know truly how hard I work and that this is my livelihood and culture. Visual art and magic ARE my life and practice. Not a peach flavored “turquoise” glitter drink. My magic is in my blood, my magic is in my ability to bring life to my visions, it is creation & destruction. Over the last 6 years, I have been so honored and lucky to be featured in some of the largest media publications internationally not limited to Instagram. This is bigger than that and the creative team for Starbucks knew that. I have personally worked on consulting large companies in their design concepts this work comes naturally to me. “So what’s the big fuss?” My personal style has become synonymous with the visual aesthetic of my brand. No, I absolutely did not “invent” the crystal balls nor acrylic nails but What I created was a space for myself along with other POC to feel represented and have visual imagery that was representative of us. The colorful candles of my local botanicas, my gold jewelry, and my long nails clutching my crystals are certainly not “new” but to see them presented in a manner that I shared visually in this space was. Katherine de Vos Devine @devosdevine is a lawyer and art historian who wrote a powerful and insightful look as to what exactly is happening with this situation and we are sharing it in our story today because more than anything she truly gives the full tea of the situation. I can strip away the crystal balls, the nail art, and delete all of my beautifully curated photos but I will always be me, I will always be my grandmother’s voices and wisdom. I will create, and I will always know my value and my worth. I trust and believe that my ancestors and my guides are looking after me. These giants may have the money to bully artists, creatives, and small business but we know the truth and absolutely must not allow it. As a small business owner, I appreciate you standing with us in this uphill journey and even if it goes nowhere, at the end of the day I can laugh to myself knowing that Starbucks made a drink inspired by HW 🔮

A post shared by The Hoodwitch® (@thehoodwitch) on

If you’re in the market for an obsidian scrying mirror, unique tarot decks or nail polish for your mystic manos, then The Hoodwitch Store is your one-stop bruja shop. Be sure to also check out the Bruja Bookshop tab, where you’ll find vintage, one-of-a-kind libros to up your witchy wisdom. The shop offers some rare finds en español as well. However, make sure you stay up to date on the latest inventory. These goods sell out fast!

4. House of Intuition

If you live in LA, you’ve most likely heard of House of Intuition. With four brick and mortar stores throughout the area, plus an online shop, it’s probably a wise investment to grab one of their “Success” intention candles. Their beautifully colored novenas aren’t the only reason to check out the shop, though. Seriously, this casa is staked with everything from crystals skulls, cauldrons and wands to a line called “Hair Mystics” featuring crystal-infused hair mists. You’ll be glad your intuition led you here.  

5. Lunar Magic Shop

Lunar Magic Shop is the super affordable and super thoughtful shop with some of our favorite bruja apparel. You will for sure want to grab the “My Mom Will Hex You” tee for the little one in your life or the “I Am My Own Sacred Place” one for yourself. While you’re at it, you might as well secure the “Motherhood”and “Student” crystal kit bags. This small shop definitely has the whole family’s brujeria needs in mind.

6. Curandera Press

While this shop is currently taking a small hiatus, they will re-launch on August 1. This gives us time to save up for a big vela haul. We could all use some divine intervention with lazy lovers and bad hair days, right? With Curandera Press’ “No Mas Amante Perezoso” and “Good Hair Day” velas, your prayers are answered. We’re excited to see what intentions they roll out next.

Read: In These Trying Times, Boricua Bruja Emilia Ortiz Provides A Digital Space For Healing

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Babies Trying Pan Dulce For the First Time is the Instagram Content We Didn’t Know We Needed

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Babies Trying Pan Dulce For the First Time is the Instagram Content We Didn’t Know We Needed

There are few things more delicioso than pan dulce. Whether it’s served with café con leche or grabbed as a quick breakfast indulgence, it really is the perfect treat. This variety of sweet bread has become a big part of the Latinidad.

When we’re talking pan dulce, conchas, puerquitos, orejas and empanadas are just a few of the mouthwatering options. No matter which sweet bread is your fav, you can relive your first taste over and over again with every fresh bite.

Thanks to social media, we can also see the adorableness that comes with baby’s first sweet bread. Hashtags like #BabysFirstConcha or #BabySweetBread are where to go to find cute pics of babies taking their first bites of sweet pan dulce.

Here are some super cute pictures of babies eating their first pan dulce.

1. Enjoy your matching concha, preciosa.

Instagram / @alanah.aya

Just like the color pink, conchas are perfect for every occasion. This little preciosa doesn’t hold back as she takes a mighty chomp out of her pan dulce. From the looks of it, this first bite won’t be her last. Enjoy, mija.

2. Matching concha costume = GOALS.

Instagram / @gr_twins

Pan dulce-themed birthday parties are now a thing — and we really wish they were back when we were kids. What better way to celebrate your special day than to dress like your favorite food. That frosting-covered face confirms how awesome pan dulce birthdays can be.

3. You don’t need teeth to enjoy pan dulce.

Instagram / @nadyaaglae

Not having teeth doesn’t have to stop you from enjoying the goodness that is pan dulce. If you’re a babe taking your first bite, just working that sweet treat with the gums you’ve been given is good enough. Just imagine how much pan dulce this cutie will take down once he actually gets those baby teeth in.

4. Just a little nibble for now.

Instagram / @ainsley_belle_511

While some babies might go mouth-first into their conchas, this little lady prefers to nibble. In her matching concha onesie, this sweetie is more proper with her first bite. However, once she gets a taste, there’s no doubt this little conchita will go pan dulce-crazy.

5. That smile says she knows this is going to be good.

Instagram / @lapasteleriadesofia

Look at the awe on her face. Look at that little grin. This baby knows she’s got something special in front of her. This pic was taken before the big chomp but that look on her face tells us it’s coming soon.

6. Nothing beats twinning with your pan dulce.

Instagram / @gr_twins

Can you really claim conchas are your favorite food if you don’t regularly dress up like them. Twinning with your favorite pan dulce is an awesome look no matter what day it is. Top it off with a concha cake and you’ve got a party.

7. Pan dulce: the perfect party food.

Instagram / @shopoliposa

Piñatas and decorations are all well and good, but a real party needs one more ingredient — pan dulce. This little lady knows what’s up as she snacks on her vanilla concha. What’s even better is the absolutely gorgeous photoshoot she had to immortalize her first bite.

8. If you are what you eat, eat lots of conchas

Instagram / @kaylaa_baylaa1

Have you ever seen a cuter conchita in your life? The answer is obviously no. This giggly little sweet bread is just as lovable as the pan dulce that she’s dressed as. Of course, her happy face could have something to do with all that colorful sugar.

9. Sweet like pan dulce.

Instagram / @madamemariposa

Those sweet, soulful eyes and that face buried into a soft concha are guaranteed to make you say, “Awwww.” This adorable shot doesn’t need any extra props or colorful backgrounds to make us swoon. If you don’t have baby fever yet, you probably do now.

10. Waiting for the sugar to kick in like…

Instagram / @normlone

Her face is telling us a lot. Namely that this little chula is lost in the flavor of her delicious pan dulce. We can admit that this state of pre-sugar high is super relatable. At least baby will be able to enjoy a nice nap after that sugar hits.

11. When you can’t wait to get home to start digging in.

Instagram / @aandylove

Sometimes you can’t wait to get home from the panderia before you start digging into the pan dulce. This sweetheart didn’t even wait to get out of her car seat to start snacking. Also, did anyone else notice that this concha is as big as her head? That’s a big project she’s working on.

12. Conchas are serious business.

Instagram / @lamonarcabakery

Although this little preciosa has a serious look on her face, those puffed out cheeks give away her secret. They’re stuffed with yummy concha. She’s obviously contemplating which piece of pan dulce she should take down next.

13. Go ahead and take a big bite, mija!

Instagram / @tres.marias.and.mama

For her “Coco”-themed birthday party, this little cutie has everything from flower crowns to guitars to complete that mood. Of course that means she also has the ultimate treat, pan dulce. We wonder if she waited to blow out the candles before she dug in.

14. We know that feeling, baby girl.

Instagram / @rlocreativedesign

That feeling when the pan dulce hits that sweet craving just right. This little cutie looks like she’s experiencing just a bit of euphoria with that first bite. The matching concha tee and pink tutu really complete this adorable look.

15. Her face says it all.

Instagram / @little_mia_sanchez

As perfect as pan dulce is, it’s also pretty messy. However, that mess is just proof that you’re thoroughly enjoying that sweet treat. This baby isn’t at all worried about the sugary mess on her face; she’s got her eyes on the prize.

16. Never too young for pan.

Instagram / @mrs.sotelo.official_

While many babies have pan dulce parties for their first or second birthdays, this little lady just couldn’t wait. As a celebration for her nine month b-day, she not only had a taste of delicious pan dulce, she also had a little photoshoot to commemorate it. After all, you’re never too young for this sweetness.

17. Now that’s a mouthful!

Instagram / @truegrumpybaby

Some babies nibble, some take a practice bite before they jump in. This baby isn’t afraid to take the plunge and go at it with a big ol’ bite. We hope he approaches every challenge in his life with the same bravery and commitment.

18. La Princesa de Conchas.

Instagram / @concha_bunny

First of all, we LOVE this look. Secondly, this little princesa looks absolutely in love with that sweet bread. No doubt, this is the beginning of a beautiful relationship between conchas and this little cutie pie.

19. The look of true love.

Instagram / @iscjuanita

This sweet smile can only mean one thing: this little one is in love with pan dulce. The sweet simplicity of her first bites is what this list is all about. It’s a reminder of what pan dulce is all about: sugar, bread, and all things good in this world.

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