A photo of Maylin with flowers in her hair.

For Maylin Reynoso and Other Forgotten Latinas

You may have heard about Maylin Reynoso’s death a few days ago. Reynoso, a 20-year-old Dominicana from the Bronx, was last seen leaving her job on July 27, 2016. Her body was found in the Harlem River three days later.  

In the weeks since her disappearance, we’ve seen tributes, hashtags, and growing outrage, all asking: Why did it take a month for Maylin’s disappearance to receive media attention when the same week the death of a white female jogger in the same city became national headlines? Why are the disappearances and deaths of Latinas so often erased? And why are they often blamed for the violence against them?

The first article regarding Maylin’s death appeared in Ensegundos on August 10, 2016, thirteen days after her disappearance. The first line of the article told us: “[she] suffered from depression and bipolar behavior.” The article did not introduce it’s reader to a young woman with unfulfilled potential and a zest for life; it introduced us to a tragic character, implicitly suggesting that she was destined for a violent ending. While Vanessa Marcotte—the white female jogger—was described by New York Magazine as having a “ubiquitous smile, passion for volunteer work, and love of Boston sports,” Maylin was declared unstable and suspect. After all, authorities had assumed Maylin ran away. Her disappearance, we were told, was not a “tragedy,” but a product of her own behavior. 

Given this characterization, it is important to note that Maylin’s life wasn’t tragic. She was vibrant. Maylin lit up every time she held her skateboard. As if the very sun was captured in her grip. As if four wheels were all she needed to create magic. 

Maylins’ Facebook page says she attended the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. I wonder which house she imagined herself being sorted into. To me, Maylin seems like a Hufflepuff. She reminds me of Tonks: funny, charming, and as bright as her always-changing hair. Both of them brujas, witches. One received her wand from the Order of the Phoenix, the other her skateboard from the Brujas of the Bronx

Maylin’s body was identified by her tattoos: her zodiac sign—Scorpio—on her right wrist, lotus flower petals on her left arm, her grandmother’s name—Milagros—on her left wrist. I wish the world could have given her a milagro, a miracle. I wish it could keep girls like her safe. I wish it would offer girls like her justice. 

When Maylin’s body was found, they again assumed that because she heard voices, she must have played a part in her own death. Loca, crazy, betrayed by her own intuitions. They assumed that because she lived with depression and bipolar disorder, somehow she must’ve also wanted death. Latina girls, never the victimized. Latina girls, the culprits even in death.

I don’t believe these voices were a sign that Maylin lacked the will to live nor did they point to her lack of sanity. The voices pointed to a centuries long spiritual tradition where the women in our families have premonitions, read people phenomenally, and rely on an intuition often deemed “illogical” and “backwards.” The voices pointed to Maylin’s rootedness in el mundo zurdo, the left-handed world as Gloria Anzaldúa terms it, a world inhabited by the colored, the queer, the poor, the forgotten, the discarded. Maylin listened to her body and was not afraid to follow its intuitions. She, unapologetically a bruja. She, unapologetically in love with herself.

I believe that we, the brujas who are still here, can “faithfully witness” that which may never be seen or known. When a Latina’s death is forgotten, when the victim becomes the primary suspect in her own death, we must speak up. We must use our voices and platforms to demand visibility for bodies that have been erased and bring to light truth(s) that remain buried in the Harlem River. 

We are magic and we create magic, believing even when we cannot see, seeing what we are told does not exist, exposing what is visible only to our eyes. I never met Maylin but that doesn’t stop me from seeking justice for my fellow bruja. When I speak her name to others, I do not only tell them about her tragic death but also about her magical life. When brujas gather together to celebrate Maylin, we do something radical: we push back against the erasure of our stories. We, the witnesses and the witches, can conjure justice and healing even when it is denied us—even when we are told it does not exist for brujas like us.

You can donate money to Maylin’s family here.

Header image via Facebook.

Durham, NC

Barbara is a PhD student at The University of North Carolina. She writes about immigration, migrant activism and organizing, transnational social movements, & intersectional feminism.

Barbara writes for Latinxs, immigrants, and brown girls. She is not here for white tears, white feminism, or white guilt.

Read more about Barbara

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