Brujería is the Spanish word for witchcraft. Brujeria also refers to a mystical sect of male witches in the southermost part of Argentina. Both men and women can be witches, brujos and brujas respectively. Brujos is the plural term that can mean either a group of male witches or both male and female witches.
The brujería of Hispanophone America is a combination of Spanish and the indigenous people of those regions (predominantly Mesoamerican and other South American indigenous regions), so it is heavily influenced by ancient paganism.
Further south of that region, brujería is diverse, from a similar mix of indigenous and Spanish culture, to the European styles found in Argentina and Uruguay. In these latter countries, brujería often takes on Christian, specifically Catholic, influences.
The brujos from Spain are either Christian or pagan-witches. The first group use folk magic and combine it with Catholic ritual and beliefs. This group includes priests and nuns. This group usually informs the person that they are performing a hex or, that they are responsible for the consequences of said spell.
The latter group are not Christian and either practice secretly or veil their practices under Catholic ones. Non-Christian brujería from Spain is predominantly influenced by the ancients, either Greco-Roman, Celtic, Phoenician or a combination. This latter group does not tend to use folk magic, but instead practices what is commonly known to English people as traditional witchcraft.
In Spain and European descendant South Americans, the witch is considered by many to be fictional. In contrast, brujos from Central America or the north of South America are usually respected members of the community. They are sought for their powers of healing, divination and spellwork, and can often be found selling amulets and such curios openly on the street.
Among certain Hispanic and Native American cultures of the Southwest, the practice of brujería is feared as a manifestation of evil. Those who use rituals, spells, incantations, potions, and powders to work ill against others are known as brujas (witches), who are primarily female in number (the male witch is known as a brujo).
Curanderismo is also a practice that is totally distinctive from witchcraft, in that they do not use spells or divination but rather, work as psycho-spiritual healers doing such things as soul retrievals.
Practices are greatly diverse and are dependent upon the locale and the form of brujería. Ancient forms tend to reflect the religions of the indigenous cultures, whilst modern forms tend to be syncretic and use the current dominant religion (usually Catholic).
All the negative facets of witchcraft feared by people throughout the world are practiced by the brujas: manifesting the evil eye, casting spells to cause physical or mental illness, bringing about bad luck, even death.
The brujas create dolls in which they insert bits of the victim’s hair, fingernail clippings, or pieces of clothing and focus their evil intent upon the miniature representative of the person to be cursed. If an Anglo doctor with modern medical techniques cannot cure someone who has fallen suddenly ill, a bruja is suspected as being the cause of the problem.
Brujas are also thought to be accomplished shapeshifters, possessing the supernatural ability to transform themselves into owls, coyotes, or cats.
In the form of an animal, they may spy upon potential victims and may even administer a potion into their unsuspecting quarry’s food or water or hide a bad-luck charm on his or her premises. There are certain amulets or rituals that offer some protection from the brujas, but the only sure way to rid oneself of their evil deeds is to employ the services of a curandero.
Sometimes the curandero is able to contact the bruja through supernatural means and demand that the curse or spell be removed. In more severe cases, the curandero may have to direct a spell toward the bruja and defeat her on the spiritual level in order to force her to remove the evil directed toward the victim.