Back in college, Isabel Ann Castro created fictional patron saint St. Sucia to deal with the needs of the modern brown girl. “I had friends asking the Virgen for their Plan B to work, and I joked that maybe we needed a different saint – one that’s a dirty girl who gets it,” Castro tells me. “It turned into a joke. I’d wake up with my makeup I slept in and it would look good, so I’d be like ‘St. Sucia has blessed me again.'” It caught on so much that Castro knew St. Sucia couldn’t just amount to an inside joke. After a bad breakup, she was inspired to use the name to begin a zine that tackles everything, including taboo subjects like sexuality and abuse, from a Latina perspective.
“I didn’t think we were doing anything radical at first, but … [we usually see] those things from the perspective of white women.”
In 2014, she approached Natasha Hernandez about creating the zine together so that she had an outlet to “talk shit.” But 11 issues in, St. Sucia has proven why it’s a necessary voice for young Latinas and all of their intersecting identities. Unlike mainstream women’s magazines – which don’t typically make space for us and other women of color within their pages – St. Sucia clearly states its mission on the cover. The words “a zine exposing what it is to be a mujer in contemporary society” are printed on the front page of each issue, with the accompanying image signaling to some part of our Latinidad.
“We’re printing stories about queer women, trans women, abuse, abortions,” Hernandez says. “I didn’t think we were doing anything radical at first, but usually we’re reading or seeing those things from the perspective of white women. We’re giving Latina women a chance to talk about those things and bring attention to their stories. We need more of our narratives out there.”
In the pages of St. Sucia, readers can find subjects Latinxs are usually told not to discuss – “the kind of conversations we have in kitchens or porches at a party where no one can hear you,” Castro says. They’re the things tias and abuelitas never talked about, but that would have been crucial to our development. St. Sucia is breaking that silence and helping young Latinas navigate adolescence and young adulthood.
“We’re talking about our own experiences, in our own words.”
But just as importantly, the magazine wants to teach Latinas why it’s important to take control of their own narratives. Take the third issue, “La Dama,” for example, where Marisa Adame summarizes what it’s like having limiting labels foisted on you. “America told me I was not beautiful/as anything other than foreign/designated my identity to an exotic home,” she writes. Through our own accounts, however, we can combat harmful stereotypes, which is why sexuality is a big focus in the zine.
“When we first started this, we worried that we were contributing to the hypersexualization of Latinas, but that hypersexualization is imposed on us,” Hernandez says. “We’re talking about our own experiences, in our own words. To tell ourselves that we can’t talk about these things, it’s depriving us. Telling our own stories is part of changing that image.”
And in the process, St. Sucia has lived up to its goal of creating a welcoming place where women can honestly discuss their sexuality, their emotions, and their traumas, as well as a “cycle of healing,” according to Castro and Hernandez. Though the two women have largely shaped the direction of the zine, they know it’d be impossible to create such a poignant piece of media without the contributions of writers from all across North America. It’s their raw honesty that has inspired them to keep going.
Along the way, one of the lessons they’ve learned is how a zine like St. Sucia can make others feel less alone. It’s similar to what happened to Castro after she confided in a mentor about leaving an abusive relationship. Her mentor let her know she had been in the same situation, which is when Castro’s feelings of shame dissolved. That’s why Castro knew – even as she and Hernandez rushed to hand-sew the zine together during their first release party – that those women who got their hands on it would be able to resonate with the content.
“When we do our mail outs, we’re sending these zines to places that we didn’t realize there were many brown people,” Castro says. “We once got an email from a girl in Iowa who told us, ‘I just found your zine and there’s not enough Latinas out here. I feel so isolated, but you’re really helping me.’”
Over the past three years, St. Sucia has blown up. While Castro and Hernandez originally struggled to find printers who took their work seriously, they have had to re-print the first issues multiple times to keep up with demand. The duo has also traveled to speak at multiple zine fests and their work has made its way into college classrooms and to the shelves of public libraries.
“We were making a space for Latinas and there aren’t a lot of spaces for them and their work,” Castro adds. “When we realized that, we knew we wanted to really step it up and make this zine something of quality.”
After years of running in writing and art circles dominated by men, the two women are now part of a thriving scene largely run by women. Even still, they haven’t drifted far from their DIY roots. While their zine continues to gain traction, it’s still made by “two drunk women on a porch” in downtown San Antonio.
“We’re just figuring it out,” Castro says. “And it’s going pretty well.”