Monday, June 21, 2010

Carlos Monsivais: What an outing!

Journalist Daniel Hernandez, who blogs at Intersections and writes for Los Angeles Times, writes about the passing of one of Mexico's literary lions, Carlos Monsivais, who died on Saturday at the age of 72.  From his post:
He was known as Mexico's finest chronicler, its "last public intellectual," its "conscience," and as the only literary figure around who was said to be recognized by regular folks on the street. With the death on Saturday of Carlos Monsivais, Mexico lost a voice that for nearly 50 years was considered unrivaled in his ability to cut to the core of the issues and personalities of his day.

Mourners, from high-profile politicians to everyday workers, swarmed the writer's casket at two public wakes over the weekend. People waved, cheered and chanted for the man millions knew simply as "Monsi."

Monsivais was a journalist, a critic, a cinephile, a collector of historical and pop ephemera (which led eventually to the founding of a museum) and a tireless activist for minority rights and the political left. In hundreds of articles and columns, more than two dozen books, countless appearances on television and radio, at conferences and demonstrations, Monsivais represented for many Mexicans an enormously erudite man of letters who never lost touch with ordinary people, or with the tragicomic nature of life here.
I have to say I didn't know much about Monsivais, other than he was an ardent defender of LGBT rights in Mexico and that some of his published pieces on the subject were seen as influential on moving a number of cultural and political leaders to support marriage equality rights in Mexico City.  I also assumed he was gay...

Well, he was... but apparently not too willing to talk about it. Again, from Daniel's piece for Los Angeles Times:
Monsivais was also active in various gay rights issues and wrote on related topics such as homophobia. His own sexuality, however, was not something he commented on.

"Many of the achievements we have today are thanks to him, the work he did," said Lina Perez Cerqueda, director of a gay rights organization, referring to the legalization of gay marriage in Mexico City and similar measures. "I think Carlos was beyond [labels]. It was nothing he hid, and it was not something he announced. He was Carlos."
That was the clear sentiment online Saturday night on Twitter as hundreds came to pay their respects at a last-minute wake, including Marcelo Ebrad, the Mayor of Mexico City.  The ceremony was broadcast live by some Mexican networks and on online feeds.

From this vantagepoint, it was a mix of the emotional and the gaudy, of pure sentiment and outright cheesiness. Or perhaps I am not used to Mexican wakes?  That five minute stretch of people applauding as some looked around confused as whether they should stop? Awkward!  The gay guy playing a flute as others looked uncomfortable around him? Spare me the flute melodies when I die.

But it was something else that gay guy did that actually made me gasp.  Right during the live webcast of the ceremony, two guys dressed in black were shown talking to a woman. They unfurled a rainbow gay pride flag and, after getting a go-ahead from the woman, one of them walked over to the coffin and laid the flag on top of it.  For a few minutes the rainbow flag laid there, on its own, as television commentators tried to make sense of it. Ah! His support for LGBT rights! They said.  Youl could still feel a palpable uneasiness about that multi-colored rainbow flag draping that coffin right at the center of a multitude of people dressed in black.

I Tweeted "What was that? An attempt to reclaim Monsivais for the LGBT community?" And it was!

Today, Mexican LGBT news site Anodis caught up to gay flautist Horacio Franco (pictured in the black shirt, crossed arms, to the left), who is described as a friend of Monsivais. He was also the man who placed the flag on the coffin.

Asked about about Monsivais' homosexuality, Franco said "it was never made public, but everyone knew about it."

Damn! Outed right before burial! I'm not sure how I feel about it.  On the one hand, there is a long history of left wing leaders and figures who were gay but never acknowledged it while alive. I mean, when it mattered. That is, when Fidel Castro was sending gays to forced labor camps.  On the other, Monsivais was a forceful advocate for LGBT rights even as he seemed less than willing to discuss his own sexuality.

As I looked at the live broadcast of the wake, I wasn't the only one who noticed all the photos of Monsivais and his loved cats. He was said to love his cats so much that he kept them despite doctors telling him that their presence in the house would worsen the lung ailment that eventually killed him. But, as I looked at all those pictures, I also wondered if there hadn't been any men in his life whose photos he would have liked to grace the halls of his wake. Yes, that was his chose in life and perhaps that choice was violated at the wake. But I couldn't help to feel sadness that such a man lived and died in the closet.

UPDATE: I always admit that I am not the best writer out there.   Sometimes I reread a post and cringe a bit at what I wrote and something about this post makes me do that.  It comes out as too light a take on the issue of outing someone who never said he was gay publicly and yet did great things for the LGBT community.  BUT I do know that I have good instincts for sniffing out interesting stories nobody else is writing about here in the United States.  And sometimes someone takes a look at what I wrote and spins off on my thoughts. That was the case with Lorenzo Herrera y Lozano's take on my post after Ricky Martin came out ("Why Ricky Martin Matters") and it is the case now with Anahi Parra at Macha Mexico.  She has written the post I was hoping to write on the outing of Monsivais so please jump over to...
  • Lo que se ve no se pregunta (Macha Mexico, June 20th, 2010) - btw, it's an English language post for those of you who do not understand Spanish.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Argentina at the FIFA World Cup: Homosex on their minds

What's up with the Argentina soccer world cup team and their latest obsession with homosex?

The latest: Back in May, before the tournament began, team coach and famed former player Diego Maradona (right) made an unusual promise: If Argentina returns from South Africa as the world champions, he will run naked around the Obelisk located in the heart of Buenos Aires.

Not that running naked is gay. But then came other comments by Carlos Bilardo, another former player and the team's current General Manager.

Appearing on a television news magazine show aired on June 4th, Dr. Bilardo, who is also a former physical therapist, was a bit bawdy and funny as heck.  Invited to talk on the topic of sex and soccer, Dr. Bilardo addressed whether players should have sex the day before a game, whether they masturbated in the locker rooms and whether there was an appropriate sexual position between an older man and a younger woman.

The clincher came just as Dr. Bilardo was getting ready to end the interview and walk out of the studio.

"Any promises Carlos, or not?" host Matias Marín asked him, "Diego [Maradona] said if he emerges the champion, [he'l run] naked to the Obelisk".

Here is Dr. Bilardo's response:

That, of course, was international news. From Peru's 100 Goles, "If Argentina is the champion, I'll let them do my ass". 

It's not the first time that Dr. Bilardo makes a similar World Cup promise. Four years ago, he offered to masturbate the player who scored the championship goal at the previous World Cup tournament (Italy won so Dr. Bilardo ultimately did not have to make good on his offer).

I guess he was upping the ante this year and at least one of the players indicated he would be more than game. Martin Palermo, who at 36 is playing in his first World Cup tournament, joked that if he scores the championship goal he'll "make Bilardo's dream come true" only if Bilardo accepts putting on a wig.

Who knows where all this is going with Argentina sitting pretty on top of the World Cup Group B standings with two wins and no losses. One thing seems true, the spirit of homosex doesn't seem to want to leave the team alone.  It's latest manifestation came during the press conference on Thursday after Argentina's 4-1 defeat of South Korea in the guise of a BBC reporter and some apparently faulty translation.

Look at those eyes widen in horror at the thought of homosex! Ah, Diego. Things haven't changed much since he played into rumors that Brazilian soccer idol Pelé began his sexual life with other boys. That also made worldwide news at the time.

But what else is new?  Soccer doesn't seem to indicate it will ever grow up when it comes to issues related to homosexuality.


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The biggest homophobes in history

It's been a month since the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) was observed around the world but I just became aware a certain exhibition that was held in Milan, Italy on May 17th.

TÊTU magazine reports that the exhibit featured large posters of some of the most homophobic personalities in history and included Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Italy's Benito Mussolini, Cuba's Fidel Castro, China's Mao Zedong, Germany's Adolph Hitler and the USSR's Joseph Stalin.

Commissioned by an Italian LGBT rights organization called Milano Contro l'Omofobia, each image is made up by an arrangement of the letters in the Italian word for homophobia, 'omofobia'.

Organizers of the exhibit said they wanted to make the general public aware of the scourge of homophobia in past and current history and throughout the world.  For each of the chosen 'personalities', campaign designers added an explanation why the person was chosen.

Under the image for Cuba's Fidel Castro, the legend reads:
"A deviation of this nature clashes with the concept we have of what a militant Communist should be." - The Military Units to Aid Production or UMAP forced labor camps were created in Cuba in 1965 by Ernesto "Ché" Guevara and remained active until 1968. During the years 1961 of 1962, homosexuals were imprisoned at the Diego Perez Cape, accused of being effeminate and of loitering. During large-scale political actions, thousands of young people were arrested in their own homes and forcefully taken by trains, trucks and buses to deportation camps in the province of Camagüey. From there, they were transferred to agricultural areas for forced work cutting hollow bamboo [sugar] canes. Housed in in an unhealthy environment, they were placed in camps surrounded by barbed wire and guarded by the Revolutionary Armed Forces. Gays were treated inhumanly. An approximate 4,000 homosexuals were persecuted.
The exhibit has drawn additional attention as of late because the design team for the posters, Studio FM, also just won the 2010 Gold Medal for Poster Series awarded by the European Design Awards.  Click through the full set of posters at this link [click on the image to see a larger size and, once there, on the 'Get originally uploaded photo' on the bottom left to get the full size].

Friday, June 11, 2010

Premiere: Angelo Garcia rushes out demo tracks on YouTube

It certainly seems to have been a tumultuous week for ex-Menudo boyband member and now out gay man Angelo Garcia.

On Sunday, popular blogger

Actually, according to Garcia, that's erroneous: He says he came out two months before Ricky Martin did.

"Let me clear something up with all my friends and Fans," he wrote yesterday in a Facebook Fan Page post, "Ricky Martin might have been the most Famous Menudo to ever come out but I was the FIRST! I am getting a lot of attention about this now because of Ricky's Revelation so having 2 Menudo boys be GAY I guess is NEWS WORTHY but I spoke publicaly (sic) about my Sexuality 2 months before he came out. It is funny how the press TWISTS the TRUTH".

If that sounds snooty, petty or a stab at attention-grabbing, he explains in another post why he felt he needed to make the statement. "I did not expect all this media attention and I am not looking for attention or trying to ride coat tails or steal other's THUNDER! I am TIRED of The RUDE IGNORANT comments and RUDE Emails people are sending. I Love myself just the way I am. Like Christina aguilera says 'AND IF ...YOU DONT LIKE IT F*** YOU!'"

And he is right. Some replies on message boards and online articles have been vicious and more than a few have accused him of trying to ride the Ricky Martin's coattail to fame.

As I wrote in my previous post, I did find a previous interview in which Garcia openly discussed his sexual orientation, and in which he also discussed his experiences as a male stripper at Manhattan's now gone Gaiety Theater in Times Square.  But it wasn't clear to me if the interview had been conducted in April when he did an erotic photo shoot for Paragon Men - 2 months before Ricky Martin came out - or after Ricky had come out. In any case, the interview went unnoticed and it's only now that media is focusing on Garcia.

In those interviews, Garcia also mentioned he was working in new solo material. He'd previously released a solo album titled "Cool" but that was in 2006. I checked out some of the tracks out there and found some promise but was not impressed overall.  I also thought he was bluffing a bit when he said he was working on new material. Apparently, I was also wrong.

Last night on YouTube, Garcia released two demo tracks he is working on for his upcoming English-language release "Scandalous". I imagine he wants to take advantage of the attention he has been getting this week and who could blame him? It's also probably a way to try to turn attention away from his Menudo past as well as put a spotlight on his music.  But is it good?

In interviews, Garcia has described himself as a gay male version "Lady Gaga" but in the cover art and in the song stylings he actually reminds me more of Adam Lambert.  Both songs obviously needs some additional production work but I think they show great potential and build up on the promise he showed in his past solo work. 

First up, the better of the two demos, "The Morning After"...

And then, "Fallin 4 U".  Funny, one of the lines in the song says "I wanna explain it to the world that you are my favorite girl"... I guess if gay actors can play straight, gay singers can play straight too? Or will the lyrics be changed once the album is released?

What do you think?

  • Angelo's Facebook Fan page here
  • Angelo's MySpace page here
  • Angelo's Twitter feed  here 

Monday, June 07, 2010

Some "Bad Romance", Mexico style

While you kiddies breathlessly await tomorrow's premiere of Lady Gaga's "Alejandro" video, here is something to tide you over (blame Twitter for me knowing that tomorrow is the "Alejandro" premiere).

The summer pride season got started this weekend with Brazil leading the way. Yeah, 3.5 million people, drag queens galore, rainbow flags everywhere. Ho-hum. Same as last year.

Wait. 3.5 million people? OMG. That's a lot of folks!

But Monterrey, Mexico, just kicked all of them Brazilian asses and did their own thingie over the weekend, plus or minus 3 million people.

Some background: LGBT activists and advocates in Mexico had spent years asking the federal government to recognize May 17th as the official day against homophobia and transphobia but when the government finally acceded to their demands this year, gone was any mention of 'homophobia' or 'transphobia'. Instead, president Felipe Calderón's government announced official recognition of May 17th as the "National Day of Tolerance and Respect towards Preferences".

Activists were, understandably, enraged. My friend, Gabriel Gutiérrez García, resigned as the designated ambassador against discrimination at the National Council to Prevent Discrimination. Others assailed the inability of the Mexican government to mention the words 'homophobia' and 'transphobia'. 

Save us, Lady Gaga!:  So where do the Mexican gaygays go? Of course! They go Gaga! As Milenio reports, a few show troopers showed up yesterday in front of the Plaza of Heroes in Monterrey, Mexico, and surprised passers-by with a choreographed performance of Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" as criticism of the government's posture (they performed the whole routine in front of the Monterrey Government Palace, which is located in the Plaza).

El Universal, which counted 300 participants at the event, reported they were also trying to draw attention to more than 60 hate crimes committed against the LGBT community in Monterrey in recent years.

And this wasn't even Monterray's gay pride! That will happen this weekend but I doubt it will get nearly the attention the Lady Gaga stunt will get.

Meantime, in Brazil, President Luiz Ignácio Lula da Silva didn't go the mamby pamby way! Today he announced that Brazil, unlike Mexico, would specifically observe an annual Day Against Homophobia.

UPDATE: Here is the 'official' video  of the action as posted by those who organized it...

OMG: Was everyone in Menudo gay?

Word comes today via Boy Culture that one of the original Menudo boyband members was gay.

No, not Ricky Martin. That's old news. It's Angelo Garcia, a boybandmate of Ricky's, who has since buffed up a little bit and, most recently, posed naked for erotic gay site Paragon Men (subscription required for what I assume are nude shots and video).

The semi-scoop comes from the June 8th print edition of TV Notas, a Spanish language tabloid sold in Latin America and the United States.

According to Boy Culture:
In the piece, he says he's never been closeted: "I'm very honest about who I am, but I don't like labels...people need to understand that someone's sexuality doesn't make the person. I'm more than that, a son, brother a musician..." But I believe he is confirming his identity publicly for the first time on the heels of appearing nude in a gay magazine.

He says he wasn't surprised when Ricky Martin came out, though he never saw Martin with a man or woman and assumed he was asexual (and no, they never fucked—he was 10 when Martin was 18, y'all). Martin had his own private room apart from the others.

Garcia theorizes their manager might have thought Martin was gay and kept him from his impressionable bandmates, or Martin may have had a private room as a perk since he was the eldest Menudo.
Paragon Men, which offers free access to some of the non-nudie shots on this page, also posted an English-language interview with Garcia back in April in which he actually said he was gay but, few, I guess, noticed at the time.  From that interview (italics mine):
Q: Since your on-camera interview with Jesse (filmed last month), Ricky Martin has officially "come-out", so let's move beyond your diplomatic comments on his life in the closet since Menudo. What do you think about his decision to come out? Is there anything you'd like to add to what you said earlier?

For all of us, discovering our sexuality is a process. None of us hits puberty knowing exactly where we fall on the spectrum of sexuality. We fantasize, we explore erotica and porn, we masturbate, we fuck, and we gradually get to know who we are sexually. I've never been in the closet and I've never lied about my sexuality. I believe in being honest with myself and others. I'm a very sexual person and I love sex with men. I've never told anyone anything different.

I can't speak for Ricky, and I don't know what his life was like after we parted ways. I'm glad that he's come out. It's better for him to stop hiding, and it's better for all of us. If every gay singer, actor, governor, lawyer, doctor, judge, teacher, athlete, senator, whatever would just come out and admit that he or she is gay, then the straight world would realize that being gay doesn't mean we are flawed. We were born with this other way of expressing love. It is neither better nor worse that being straight. It is just who we are.

Of course, I knew that Ricky was gay, but I would never "out" anyone. I know he seems to have a wonderful family now and to be comfortable in his own skin. What more could anyone want? He's a talented performer, and his being homosexual doesn't diminish that in any way. I am hopeful that the openly gay Ricky Martin will be as successful as the closeted Ricky Martin, and I wish him well.
As for his career,  Angelo Garcia has released a solo album titled "Cool".  I'm not sure if I dig "Dámelo", which I found on YouTube. There is also a lipsynched performance of "Cariño Presumido" on Puerto Rican TV.

But head over to his personal website, and listen to the couple of tracks you can stream on the site and they are much better including what seems to be the movie's title track, "Cool", an ode against fundamentalist religion.

He tells TV Notas and Paragon Men he is working on new material for an upcoming release.

  • Angelo's Facebook Fan page here
  • Angelo's MySpace page here
  • Angelo's Twitter feed here  

Friday, June 04, 2010

Rita Indiana in New York

[UPDATE TO THIS POST: Apparently Rita has cancelled all NYC appearances this summer. On Dominica television, she said she will come to the United States but it will be this Fall].
Speaking about the Dominican Republic:  I don't know about you, but I just can't stop saying enough great things about Rita Indiana y Los Misterios to my friends.  That's her above performing "Jardinera (Semilla)" last year at Cinema Cafe in Santo Domingo.

Last night she performed at CHA in downtown Santo Domingo (see two clips from her performance last night below). Now, this being the Dominican Republic, most local music acts would stay clear of the CHA, which happens to be a gay bar.  But this is Rita Indiana, who has been described as "the next best thing in Latin music", and who recently spoke to Dominican media about her current relationship with another woman.

That link will take you to one of my previous posts, which is misleadingly titled "Rita Indiana comes out".   The thing is, the more I've found out about Rita Indiana, the more I've realized she has never really been in the closet, whether in previous bands Miti Miti and Casifull or in her career as a poet and novelist. A Dominican television show reporter simply asked a question about her romantic life and she simply gave an answer.

But consider that the band, as many accolades as it is currently receiving, has yet to put an album out and you realize how amazing it is that someone who leads a band which shows such incredible potential to blow up big in the Latino music market and beyond would be so upfront about her sexual identity.  It really turns what has been the mantra in Latino music marketing totally upside down - with promoters, producers and managers telling gay performers to keep it on the down low - and it's totally refreshing.

Her upfrontness is also paying dividends in the island. From what I know, her songs are on constant radio replay in the Dominican Republic.  I get a sense that people don't really know what to make of Rita Indiana but they certainly love the music and, at least for now, she is being able to play her looks, her sexuality, her music and her openness to full advantage in a country not necessarily known for being that open.

Rita Indiana does Brooklyn 2010: Rita Indiana is no stranger to New York City. In fact, she made New York her home a few years back before moving to Puerto Rico and then went back to the Dominican Republic where she was born.  She has performed in the city with her former bands but I'm not sure if she has ever performed as Rita Indiana y Los Misterios.

New York City is well-known for it's free summer concerts at area parks.  Best known, perhaps, is Central Park's SummerStage series. But this year, it's the Celebrate Brooklyn! summer series that has got the best scoop!  On Friday, July 23, Rita Indiana will be sharing the bill with Colombia's Bomba Estéreo and Puerto Rico's La Secta Allstar for what promises to be an amazing show.

Previously, I have shared Rita Indiana y Los Misterios' amazing video for "La Hora de Volvé" as well as clips for "El Blu de Ping Pong", "El Maldito Faisbú", and my favorite, "Jardinera".  Watch them and memorize the lyrics.

And, from last night's performance at CHA, live versions of "El Blu de Ping Pong"...

...and "Bajito a Selva"...

Want more Rita? Check out these links:
  • Rita Indiana's official promoter website here (official free music downloads here)
  • Rita Indiana on MySpace here
  • Rita Indiana's rarely used Twitter account here
  • Rita Indiana y Los Misterios on MySpace here
  • Rita Indiana y Los Misterios fan page on Facebook here

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Dominican Republic: Church mural is too gay, must be torn down, says priest

[Photo credit: Detail from full mural photo taken by journalist José Rafael Sosa]

A mural painted twelve years ago inside a church located in the Dominican Republic town of Jarabacoa has drawn national attention this week after a newspaper reported that the resident priest at Our Lady of Carmen Church had requested official permission to tear it down... and revealed the reason for the request.

At issue, according to the papers submitted by Reverend Johnny Durán, is that the mural is just too gay. Rev. Durán claims that the mural is a "monstrosity" and that parents are keeping children away from church service because the images are too disturbing.

That's not the reception that mural creator Roberto Flores got when he approached the church in 1998 with a proposal to donate his artistic talents to the church.  At the time, the renown Dominican artist was welcomed with open arms.  Two years later he was recognized for his work at a public ceremony led by the local archbishop. And, with such accolades, the Jarabacoa town council decided to officially designate the artwork as a symbol of cultural heritage in order to protect it.

In other words, Rev. Durán could have gone ahead and destroyed the mural if he wanted if it wasn't for the fact that it had been placed on an official cultural patrimony list a few years back. Hence, his petition for the council to strip the artwork from its special protection status and to allow him to destroy it.

In a follow up article published today, there are disturbing indications that the current town council might be receptive to his homophobic request.  According to the article, town council member Marciela Genao recognized the artwork had a "great artistic value" but said that it was housed in an inappropriate place which "distracted and perturbed parishoners" and that the images of angels in the mural were placed in "very strange postures".

For his part, the artist is also speaking up. Mr. Flores expressed concern that the town council was considering lifting the protected cultural heritage status from a mural that had taken him five months to complete.

"I am an artist who is a believer, a Catholic, and what I did was create a mural art form which invites you to lift your soul to the sublime", he said.

The mural, he said, did not reflect sexual deviance nor the work of the Devil, as Rev. Durán and his followers have claimed, but was born out of his Christian faith and reflected no such thing.  He is pleading for his work to be saved from being destroyed.

El Nacional, the daily Dominican newspaper reporting on the story, says that they have made repeated attempts to contact Rev. Durán for his comments but he has yet to respond.

As for the mural, I cropped the section that might have been found to be gayish and there's actually not much gay-gay to it.  Jeez! If Rev. Durán sees obscenity in this, I wonder what else he deems devilish and censure-worthy!

Thankfully a group of local artists and poets have organized to fight back against zealous religious bigotry and censorship.

Poet Taty Hernández Durán is leading a community coalition to amass signatures in opposition to stripping the mural the protective cultural heritage status.  She has created a website to call attention to the impending town council vote.

José Rafael Sosa, who has been reporting on the issue for El Nacional and allowed me to use his image, is also following up on every development on his personal blog.

A vote might come tomorrow Friday or Monday. I'll keep you updated.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

On Father's Day, People in Español magazine honors Ricky Martin

Officially on sale this Friday but in New York City newsstands right now, this is the cover of the Father's Day issue of People en Español.

It's not the first time that Ricky Martin has posed with his twins for the magazine - the first time was December of 2008 - but it's the first time he has done so as an openly gay man. I believe it is also the first official on-the record story since his coming out.

How great is it that the editors of one of the most widely read Spanish-language magazines in the United States would deem it fit to honor Ricky Martin and his parenting as an openly gay man and, in doing so, highlight gay parenting in general?  Appropriately, I also happened to come upon this story today on what a number of bloggers are celebrating as the 5th Annual Blogging for LGBT Families Day,

The cover story did not happen in a vacuum, though. Armando Correa, the current editor of People en Español, is also an openly gay man and father of two children. He is also the author of "En Busca de Emma: Dos Padres, Una Hija y Un Sueño de Una Familia" in which he chronicles how he and his partner explored different possibilities for child-rearing and how they came to raise their first daughter.

Obviously for Armando, this was a story that was personal as well and I am sure that it played into why Ricky Martin gave People en Español the exclusive story.  In any case, it's great!  If you would like to thank Armando Correa for running the cover story, please follow him on Twitter and send him a Tweet or two.