Growing up in Miami, every time Yeni Sleidi would open her freezer door she’d find a folded piece of paper suspended in a cup of ice. For years she thought little of it — it seemed just another of her family’s harmless idiosyncrasies. But earlier this month, Sleidi, now 25 and living in Bushwick, discovered that all those crumpled pieces of paper from her childhood had names scribbled on them. The ritual was her Cuban mother’s attempt at putting a freezing hex on her enemies using the power of Santeria.
“I’ve always thought of her as a good witch, but I guess she’s had a lot of enemies throughout her life,” Sleidi tells the Voice. “We never really discuss politics, but I remembered asking her what she thought about Marco Rubio when he announced that he was running [for president], and she thought that he was an asshole. So I was curious to know what she thought about Trump, and she also thinks that he’s an asshole.”
Since announcing his candidacy for president in June, businessman-turned-politician Donald Trump has indeed made a number of new enemies. His proposed plan to build a massive wall stretching across the U.S.-Mexico border and his promises to, if elected, deport thousands of undocumented immigrants and end birthright citizenship have drawn ire from both Democrats and Republicans. The country’s Hispanic community has taken particular offense, with leaders and advocacy groups denouncing Trump’s rhetoric as hateful, racist, and anti-immigrant.
Inspired by her mother, Sleidi decided to do her part to help block Trump’s improbable rise to political prominence. She’s put together a group of Brooklyn brujas — or witches — with the goal of placing a hex on the outspoken (and follically challenged) presidential hopeful. The spells and incantations resulted in a playful video meant to express solidarity with Mexican Americans and the country’s undocumented immigrants.
“When Trump started talking the way he did about Mexican immigrants, it hit close to home, because my father actually came here on a boat,” explains Sleidi, who immigrated to the U.S. from Cuba at the age of six through a legal lottery system. “Even though we’re estranged, I can relate to Mexicans crossing the border in desperation in search of a better life.”
The video begins with the freezing hex Sleidi learned from her mother, but also includes rituals to make Trump lose (the rest of) his hair, as well as the ability to speak. The silencing spell typically calls for the use of a knife and an animal tongue, but instead Sleidi chose to practice what she calls “ethical brujeria,” forgoing any props that could be misconstrued as overly violent.
“I mean, the guy is an idiot and he’s offensive and racist, but I don’t want him to die, I just want him to change his mind and respect people,” she says. “I was a little anxious that bad things would start happening to him and then people would start to blame me. It crossed my mind that he could, I don’t know, get into a car crash or something and then people would be like, ‘Oh, it’s because you hexed him!’ ”
On the contrary, the hexes failed to stop Trump from continuing to speak out against immigration during Wednesday’s Republican debate, and he remains a front-runner in the polls for the GOP nomination.
“The very idea of the witch comes from a fear of people who are different,” explains Suzy Exposito, a writer and cartoonist whose “brujacore” band, Shady Hawkins, contributed music to the video. “I think the really scary thing is that someone with as much money and power as Donald Trump can come at people who are different for some reason and actually wield results.”
Though the video is in many ways an attempt to make light of a serious situation — and few truly expect Trump’s tongue to fall out on the campaign trail — the act of “hexing” the candidate stands more as a statement of political subversion and provided Sleidi and her friends with a feeling of real relief.
“It was definitely cathartic to do these things with the intent of silencing him and hoping that he does shut up,” Sleidi explains, adding that she’s still 50/50 on whether the hexes will end up affecting Trump during the race. “You look at this guy speaking and you wish you could just put a gag in his mouth.”