Bruja is the Spanish word for “witch”. A casual scholar of etymology has proposed that the term originated from 16th century Spaniards overhearing the common Jewish prayers that begin with “Baruch ata”; seeing as how great tension existed between Christians and Jews during this period of time, and many Christians viewed Jewish prayers and practices as Satanic, the eventual transition of “la bruja” referencing someone who was Jewish to someone who is a witch, seems logical.
While determining the origin of the word has proven to be complicated, there are even more complex meanings behind the term. Within Chicano folklore for instance, which is “rooted in the literary traditions of 16th century Spain and the oral traditions of the indio cultures of Mexico,” La Bruja is one of the four primary “Legendary Mexican American Characters”. As a folk-literary figure, La Bruja is seen as containing characteristics present in both Spanish folktales during and before the 16th century, as well as Mexica legends of goddesses that contain “malevolent and benevolent powers.
Interestingly enough, all four “Legendary Characters” are female and contain a type of ethereal power: 1) La Llorona, The Weeping Woman 2) La Bruja, The Witch 3) La Curandera, The Healer 4) La Muerte, The Angel of Death.
La bruja’s meaning of “witch” represents a person’s “resistance to even the most cruel treatment that can be inflicted upon [him or her]. La Bruja, and the very real history of female persecution and incredible survival. Thus, in this way, la bruja as a term, has evolved in its rhetorical significance within Female and Chicano/a Literature as a new identity for women (and the history of women) being beyond duality: as a woman is neither good nor bad, she has inexplicably survived in-spite of overwhelming persecution, and her toughness is what conveys her beauty.