“Let’s use everything we can to build empires and new ways of existing that they will never be able to break down.” – Natalia Gonzalez, founder of Firme Arte
We, the bruj@s, discover ourselves through traveling, reclaiming our roots, and building our empires—our magick, our rituals. As we embrace this challenge, we also remember to learn from those marginalized from mainstream society: people of color, the queers, the weirdos, and the artists. Our discovery -our revolution- both personal and political, depends on our continued support and love for each other.
Based in Sacramento, Natalia Gonzalez is a queer-Hopi Xican@ with cultural and familial roots to the well-known, radical art collective Royal Chicano Air Force. Gonzalez is also the alchemist behind self-care empire Firme Arte, an online bodega that provides an extensive spectrum of magickal products, such as smudge wands and ritual wax. To Gonzalez, their work is about building a self-care revolution through ancestral healing and magick.
Here’s a bodega favorite: “Hella Sensitive” is the name of their anxiety-reducing grounding oil, that’s made with a blend of oils, botanicals and crystals. I stumbled upon Firme Arte on IG while navigating an incredibly difficult second year of graduate school at a predominately white institution. I fell in love with the bodega because I could really see so much of my struggle in it, and it made me feel less alone.
The following is a conversation with Natalia Gonzalez from Firme Arte, where we discuss sustaining community, ancestral magick, and building an online business around cultura:
The “Hella Sensitive” grounding oil for empathetic babes everywhere. Photo by Firme Arte.
Linda: What inspires you? What started your commitment to celebrating self-empowerment and self-exploration through elements and energies from crystals, salts, and herbs?
Natalia: Art, truth, and culture inspire me. Without those things what else do we have babes? You yourself are art, your existence is art. Your journey towards self awareness and healing is art. I spent a lot of years unaware of myself and just floating along this life feeling so unhappy and uncomfortable. I found myself caught up in Western medicine trying to diagnose my discomfort and overwhelming experiences. One day, I came across a Healer friend who introduced me to energy work and crystals for the first time. It completely validated that there was nothing wrong with me. It turns out that I was blessed with some incredible psychic gifts and an incredible sense of empathy. So much so that it brought me lots of distress throughout my adolescence.
Once I found these ancestral ways of healing, it opened up a part of myself that I had always wanted to find. Because those things have resonated so much in my life, I have dedicated a huge part of my journey on this planet to spreading the word about inner awareness and alternative ways of healing such as herbs, crystals and ancestral energies. We have been fed a lot of bullshit as POC on this planet babes, it time we start learning how to take care of ourselves and start demanding the truth.
L: Firme Arte highlights that your products are “made with manos, not machines.” What does consciousness mean to you?
N: In my opinion consciousness is radical self awareness. It is also to be aware of the matrix we exist in.
L: How do you define magick? What role does magick have in your creative process?
N: My definition of magick is simply the manipulation of energy along with radical self-awareness and intense gratitude for the elemental & universal forces that be. Magick plays a huge part in my creative process as it has always been there hiding behind the catholic forefront that was forced upon some of our ancestors. From Santo velas, to oils, and hierbas, to the evil eye egg rub my mother would preform on me as a child, it was always there behind all of it.
Everything I do involves some form of magick. Whether I am cooking something in the kitchen or working on self care items for the shop, skateboarding or working on art, I am constantly infusing everything with my own intent and energy. Magick is everything: it is real, it is valid, it is healthy, it is healing.
L: As a Queer Two-Spirit Hopi-Xican@, what is your relationship between music (especially punk), magick, and queer cultura to you and your work?
N: Punk rock and Grunge, especially the incredible musicians/magicians who created these musical covens went through some incredibly gnarly things on this planet in order to leave behind the art that they did. I am completely obsessed with learning about the lives of other creative forces on this planet, especially ones who were only allowed to exist here for such a short amount of time. I try to learn so much from the journeys of these human beings and the heart ache they endured which ultimately spouted the creation of such iconic and intense artwork. They completely went against the social norms by being bold, raw, demanding, powerful, stimulating and beautiful all at the same time.
I often use music to fill my space with energy and to empower myself when crafting magickal items for my bodega. It is responsible for so much personal growth and healing in my life. Daily, I try to honor the forces of what once was and use my creative energy to hopefully leave behind something as raw and inspiring as my musical muses.
Some of the manifestation candles for the upcoming new moon. Photo by Natalia Gonzalez.
L: Several of your products contain properties of purification and cleansing, or limpieza. What advice would you give folks who are just beginning to learn about ancestral traditions of destressing?
N: If you have a feeling about something, look into it. We are so blessed to be able to just pick up our phones and Google something that we are interested in. Make sure to take advantage of the vast amount of knowledge about where we come from and the magick in our blood as people of color. Look into where you come from and the spiritual practices of your ancestors. Call upon them, they are there to help guide you through this life. Smudge yourself and always keep psychic and spiritual protection a priority. Talk to the trees and speak to the wind. Seriously, take some time to let the universe know you out here. Sea salt is one of the best ways to cleanse, clear and protect your space and yourself. It’s a bruj@’s best friend. Add that shit to your bath always.
L: Your instagram refers to a “self care revolution.” What role do you think shops, such as Firme Arte, play in building and sustaining social movements?
N: I think now more than ever it is so important to know where your money is going. It is incredibly important for us to continue to support businesses owned and operated by people of color. The future is uncertain and undoubtedly scary especially for all the beautiful queer, brown babes out there. I want to use this platform to inspire people to stand up for what they believe in and go after their goals in life. The evil forces that be in this universe absolutely want us to fall in line and buy into the slave like systems they have created for us.
I hope to create a space to promote vast platforms of art and creation and to center it all around the collective power and energy we as people of color create in this universe. We are allowed to heal. Let’s use everything we can to build empires and new ways of existing that they will never be able to break down.
L: Many of your product descriptions center paths to healing from ancestral trauma. What is your stance on the mass commercialization of these ancestral practices?
N: Honestly, it kind of sucks. I came across a first nations Oracle deck a while back and was incredibly bummed to find out that the entire deck was created by non-indigenous humans. I felt so out of whack given that I purchased it. I resonate so much with where I come from that it seriously made my stomach upset to see the lack in respect when it came to the deck as a whole. I think when you are looking for items to help you progress in your self care journey, you should be going for the ones that resonate with you the most. There is a lot of mass produced magick out there that you can see for yourself really lacks in energy and emotion.
L: Do you think self-care can be collective?
N: Absolutely. Without the collective energy of all the babes out there my hustle would not exist. We are all entering into this new era where we are waking up and starting to break down social cages that we have have been trapped in. If you’ve never looked up “the collective unconscious,” please do so. It covers part of the unconscious mind that is derived from ancestral memory. We all tap into this and all contribute to it. The more babes who wake up and start taking control of their healing and happiness the more we all grow as human beings existing in this universe. We all need each other. More than ever, take care of your fellow babe. Be excellent to each other.
Gonzalez adorns their workspace with flowers, candles, music, and incense to set the tone for their creative process. Photo by Natalia Gonzalez.
L: Lastly, what upcoming projects do you have for 2017? Any consejos for fellow bruj@s?
N: Oh man, I have a ton of things coming up for this year. I have a few zines coming up, I will also be working on a gaming project with my brother that we will be introducing to the shop soon! I am also trying to build a skate ramp and try to connect with more babes who skate and like dope music. On top of all that, I have a lot of new self care gear in the works. I hope to one day be able to travel around the lands in a van spreading the message of truth and self growth.
To end, stop saying yes to shit that makes you unhappy. Start saying thank you to the day/universe for allowing you to exist. Smudge yourself, carry crystals, smoke mota, listen to music that turns you on. Make art, speak up for yourself, and for what’s right. Carry black tourmaline and do not let the non-magickal fuck boys out here get you down. You are not alone. I got you.
Check out the Firme Arte Internet Bodega at http://www.firmearteonline.com/. Follow them on Instagram @firmearte for some Bruj@ magick in action!