Emilia Ortiz Is Providing Self-Care Practices — With Guidance From Her Ancestors

Emilia Ortiz’s laughter is harmonized by a joyful choir of spirits whose vitality and vibrancy cut through the background static of our interview. A simple question inspired the laugh. To read about the rest of the Culture Shifters, including TV writer Cord Jefferson and activist Mariah Moore, return to the complete list here.

Simply put, Ortiz is transforming. When we spoke over the phone, the 29-year-old bruja and spiritual adviser is bursting with new life — Ortiz was entering her third trimester of pregnancy. Appropriately, we paid a quick tribute to her growing mofonguito, calling in protection and abundance. The ancestral spirits that guide her in her ritual practices seemed to be already in sync with us.

Brujeria, native folk witchcraft, has historically been a powerful tool of collective survival, perseverance, and the crafting of radical new paradigms. She has amassed more than 200,000 followers on Instagram as @ethereal.1. The assemblages of her Afro-Puerto Rican lineage, no-bullshit delivery, and Brujeria create a space where she openly talks about openly explores themes like mental health, sexuality, and, grassroots activism, sin verguenza. The proud Brooklyn native has created a space without shame.


On Instagram, Ortiz provides avenues for self-care for la gente. Hoops big, nails long, skin glowing, edges set, she takes the hands of her followers. She guides them through native herbal plant support, meditation exercises, mutual aid projects, and oracle readings assisted by her pet parrot, Rico. Her lessons for the coordinated strike are a divine balance of providing hope and reminding followers to check themselves before the spirit does the job for them. Using memes, Ortiz reminds followers to honor boundaries, feel safe within their bodies, and that the government is trash. Lookk at its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, she notes on Instagram.) Along the way, Ortiz never compromises on her sense of self and the tortured lineage she honors through her practice.

In Puerto Rico, an island still suffering under continued colonization, much of the spiritual practices of a medley of African, Spanish Catholicism, and indigenous Taino belief systems and rituals have been purged from collective memory. However, Ortiz’s psychic ability was recognized in her childhood and encouraged by her father, who never shied away from their African roots. Following his death, Ortiz’s family encouraged her to continue to develop her abilities and step into her power and fate. The well-established nature of her practice offered a means of preparation for the onslaught of trauma in 2020.

“I’m very thankful that I have an established practice and have had ones for many years because the moment Trump came into office, to be honest, I knew that at some point during his presidency, whether it was right away, in the middle, in the end, things like this were going to happen,” she said.

Ortiz said her spiritual guides, her ancestors, encouraged her to stay grounded. She needed to maintain a stable foundation to fortify her mental health to find her role to serve the collective best. Throughout the past year, when many public-facing figures remained silent or ambiguous on matters of life and death, Ortiz recognized that with her gifts and platform, she had a responsibility to her community to play a role in how they were collectively navigating this time.

Feeling a sense of urgency and a call to action is understandable after social movements were reignited in 2020. The advice of la bruja? Reconnection: Our ancestors have fought these wars before, and we can connect and call upon them to better understand our roles and be guided by their experience. Light a candle. Say their names. Write letters and prayers. Build an altar, cook their favorite meal, and honor them often and abundantly.

In April 2020, as the coronavirus pandemic was at its early height, @ethereal.1 posted, “We all have a role to play,” detailing that folks often feel pressure to take on a visible role during this time as producers, creators, healers, and more. “We all have our ‘call time’ and what needs to go into our prep, as well as our rest period,” she said. “Do what you can at this time. Make moves with intention.”

Intention and responsibility guide her every move, as Ortiz recognizes that offering her gifts is a bridge connecting a larger community that has been forcibly scattered. The effects of the historical and ongoing colonization of Puerto Rico have caused multiple diasporic waves of forced migration.

“It’s funny, I often say when it comes to being a Puerto Rican of the diaspora, there’s this aspect of being born on the wrong island, you know?” she said with a subtle laugh. “And especially as a Nuyorican, it’s not necessarily that you were born in the wrong place, but that’s how it feels, right? Because it feels as if there’s nowhere that is truly home. It’s not that New York isn’t home; it is home. But at the same time, there’s a piece of you always longing for this other home.”

This tension and embracing of duality inform her sense of responsibility. At times when she feels she is not doing enough, it is this responsibility that grounds her. So she utilizes her privileges and platform to honor the spirit of radical resistance and collective healing native to the Puerto Rican tradition. “We can use the privilege of being here to advocate for what is right for the island,” she said. Still, it’s essential to do it in a way that holds space for the complexity of privilege and does not erase Afro-Puerto Rican identities and roots. Ortiz said she’s hopeful of the future and the collapse of systems and structures that “are just beyond unfair and not working, quite frankly. Except obviously in favor of, you know, white supremacy.” Mutual aid and community is the imperative antidote. We all have our role to play; she — and her guides — reminds us. Pa’lante

Tyson Houlding
I’m a lifestyle blogger with a passion for writing, photography, and exploring new places. I started this blog when I was 18 years old to share what I was learning about the world with family and friends. I’ve since grown into a freelance writer, blogger, and photographer with a growing audience. I hope you find inspiration and motivation while reading through my work!