Think empowered, self-confident, feminist bad-ass, and you’ll get Brujas: a young Latina female skate group that calls the Riverview Skate Park of the Bronx their home.
Native New Yorker Arianna Maya Gil started skating when she was 13 years old, and didn’t stop for the next four years. “It became a total addiction,” she said in an interview with Browntourage.
Lacking a core group of friends while growing up in the East Village and Lower East Side, she tagged along with her younger brother and his friends as they skated hours away at the Tompkins Square Park. Eventually she adopted the nickname as the “Tompkins Square Babysitter” because of her older age.
But Gil’s immersion into the skate scene was a wake up call to the gender exclusivity of skate culture and she decided she needed to do something about the male-dominated skate scene.
“No matter what, because we live in such a patriarchal society, you’re never going to be treated the same,” she said. After moving to Ohio to study at Oberlin College, she had the opportunity to create a unique curriculum to teach a class of women the basics of skateboarding, and the skate tricks that Gil honed. However, the course’s most important lesson was that of the inherent sexism present in skate culture. Bottom line: girls did not feel welcome.
But after returning to New York City for a summer break from Ohio, Gil realized that a class wasn’t enough to break down the thick mentality that skateboarding “just isn’t for girls.” She and her friend Sheyla Grullon were hanging out with a group of guy skaters as they filmed a video of some stunts for their collective called Casino, and not once were the girls asked to join in.
“It was surprising how little they wanted us to participate in what they were doing,” she said. In that moment, she realized that if they could have a guy squad there was nothing stopping her from having a kick-ass girl squad. Brujas was born.
But what started as just a group of four girls practicing their tricks together in the streets of New York City quickly became an inspiring movement to create gender equality in the sport. After a Tumblr post about their crew became viral, more and more girls began heading over to their local skate parks, less scared to enter a world that didn’t seem so welcoming.
As their impact became more apparent, the crew wanted to do more to create a distinct community that could make tangible change. Their Latina backgrounds inspired them to develop a political platform that represented their intersectional feminism.
“The commercial skateworld, and even the few outlets for girl skaters that exist tend to center [around] white people and culture. Growing up [as] second-generation Latinas, we absorb New York skateboarding and street culture through the lens of a transnational immigrant politic,” Gil said. Hence the name Brujas, influenced by the cult classic “The Skate Witches” which centers around Latina Barrio girl pride.
They began throwing parties around the city to solidify the growing Brujas community. From Caribbean inspired queer “Sucias” to the Anti-Prom bash that they threw in Bed-Stuy just a few weeks ago, all the events that the Brujas girls plan are aimed at including everyone of different genders, ages, sexual identity, and so on.
Recently, they began producing street style gear to brand their squad. Because of their small community, they currently only make made-to-order sweatshirts with “Brujas” printed in black, bold letters over a variety of pastel hues, and accept orders via Instagram Direct Message. But their rapidly increasing social media following signals a change in how this flourishing business/community/gang/girl-squad is run.
Brujas isn’t the only girl squad making a difference in the skate scene though. Check out the coolest all-girl crews across the country, aiming to defeat the male-dominated presence of skate culture.
Meow Skateboard Team
This Cali-based skateboard team is a growing squad of 11 of the best competitive girl-skaters in the country. By 2012, one of the members, Lisa Whitaker, launched their now flourishing skateboard company, Meow Skateboards.
Over 10 years ago, Brooklyn-based skaters Jileen Liao, Brandy McDonald, Desiree Billett, Tracy So, and Katie Plassche squaded up in the local skate parks to share their love for the sport. Although their passion for skating never evolved into a profession for any of them, there isn’t a day that they aren’t found doing an ollie on the curbs of NYC.
Four skaters from Chicago – Chanelle Rezko, Hope Christerson, Liv Seidel and Ayda Omidvar – were determined to change the gender exclusivity of the skate scene. Using their first-hand knowledge of the sport, they created the online magazine Get Born to introduce a female perspective on skate culture.
Tired of being the odd-ones-out while practicing skate tricks with boys on the ramps of Phoenix, Arizona, the girls of Las ChicAZ found refuge in the supportive community found when skating with other girls. While four of the seven have their own sponsors, the uncompetitive nature and love within their squad remains most important to them.