Image Jhon Dewar Cordoba Valdes, said Papu , left with Abi Abismal, who competed in the Virgin Vogue category. Credit ... Camo Delgado Aguilera for Hfrance.fr
The ballroom scene in Latin America is relatively new. It began in 2013 when a group of dancers began organizing fashion battles in Brazil, and has since spread to Mexico, Chile, Costa Rica, Argentina and Colombia.
In Colombia, a recent viral video of riders on public buses revealed the Bogota scene international attention . It also highlighted an important aspect of the culture there: While some events - like the Met Gala-themed party - take place in theaters and dance studios, the ballroom takes place.mostly in public. Street balls attract parades of participants who strut and dive to cheer on the crowds. And almost every Sunday there are practice balls in Bogota's Renacimiento Park (until recently hosted by Papu), where dancers hone their moves while parents with strollers and men in the park. 'middle-aged in basketball shorts seem intrigued.
But as the Latin American scene has broadened, concerns about appropriation, operation and use incl. How much should ballroom culture change and adapt to a new context? Are we doing enough to include black and trans? Image The Met Gala Themed Ball. Credit ... Camo Delgado Aguilera for Hfrance.fr
On the Colombian scene, few people speak as openly about these issues as Papu, 22, born in Quibdo, capital of the province from Choco, Colombia, but grew up in New York. Since arriving on the Bogota ballroom stage in March 2020, he has spoken out about the lack of Afro-Colombian representation and insisted on respecting the original structures of the ballroom, of which he is concerned. 'is impregnated in New York.
"Latin American girls don't respect titles, they don't respect hierarchies, they don't follow guidelines that were set up for the ballroom "Papu said in an interview. “They are rebels. They want to do what they want. "
To NewThe York Ballroom Scene was founded by the most vulnerable members of society, including homeless youth and sex workers. But across Latin America, the culture has been largely imported by professionally trained white and cisgender dancers who encounter voguing across the dance world, and then retro-engineering the ballroom as a fashion. life and community.
Archie Burnett, the grandfather of the House of Ninja in New York City who helped start ballroom scenes in Mexico, in Brazil and Europe, says some of these dynamics are inevitable. Image Papu at the microphone at the Medellin Ball. Credit ... Camo Delgado Aguilera for theHfrance.fr
"When you have a different demographic, say a white demographic that has more access with money and resources it 's easy to organize an event, "he said in an interview.
When doing At a ball that Papu threw in Medellin in October, Sky Vemanei, a 32-year-old non-binary New York DJ who has worked with ballroom scenes across Latin America, told the crowd: "The venue ballroom is not a dance competition. And the ballroom is not a fashion show. And the ballroom is not a "drag race ".
Instead, Vemanei - whose remarks were greeted with claps and whispers of approval - said the ballroom existed. specifically for dark skinned trans people to be valued and celebrated.
" If your skin color isn 't dark like this, "they added, gesturing to their arm," it ' s your job to create space for these people. 'first. "
Vemanei, who recently left Labeija House to start their own house, said in an interview that many hall communities Latin American Ballroom "did I 't have much experience discussing white privilege or whiteness in general - and who actually belongs to the ballroom and for whom this space has been created. " Image Sky Vemanei, who recently left Labeija's house to start his own house. Credit ... Camo Delgado Aguilera for Hfrance.fr
Latin America has 130 million people of African descent, compared with 42 million in the United States . But higher levels of miscegenation, or racial mixing, have led to national myths of racial democracy which conceal stories of segregation, inequality and discrimination . It permeates all parts of society, including the ballroom. Black participants across Latin America say racism, colorism, hypersexualization of black bodies, and valuing Eurocentric beauty standards persist.
In Colombia, which has the second largest African-descent population in South America after Brazil, Papu said he felt theracial component essential to the ballroom was left out. For him, realizing that he couldn't escape racism even in his home country was heartbreaking.
"OK, now I'm in the reality, ”he said, remembering thinking. “Now I'm tall. Now I understand. "
But many on the Colombian scene see Papu as an intruder, breaking into an unfamiliar culture and telling people how things should be. be done without first getting to know them or recognizing what they have already built. Image The track competition. Credit ... Camo Delgado Aguilera for theHfrance.fr
Mauricio Godoy, 27, known as Pantera, an Afro-Colombian member non-binary from the House of Yeguazas, said in an interview that even though there were "micro-racisms" in the scene, like being told "you're cute for a black", the Colombian ballroom remains a space under construction.
"I cannot require a newborn to walk for me because that will not happen ", Pantera said. "What we need is patience A house is not built by shouting and bragging, a house is built with practice, by laying one brick at a time.
For others Like Scarlett Mizrahi, 19, the founding mother of House of Cataleya in Colombia, the novelty of the scene is no excuse. "It 's like " Yes, I still read the Satanic Bible but I never come to school.It's been a Christian for about a month, " she said. "This is illogical.
"There cannot be a drop of racism in the ballroom " added Mizrahi, whose house has become an Afro-house, although it is white.
What Papu calls "rebel" in Latin American scenes Also stems from a historically damaged relationship with the United States and a reluctance to feel colonized. Vemanei pointed out that the original categories of the American ballroom don't always translate, given each country's distinctive relationship with colonization, oppression, and queer rights: a set of dynamics that don't always match. what black American homosexuals had to fight against. " Image Scarlett Mizrahi in Medellin. "There can't be a drop of racism in the ballroom " she said. Credit. .. Camo Delgado Aguilera for Hfrance.fr
And while the Latin American ballroom may have a long way to go on conversations surrounding white privilege and race, it has become a more welcoming space for non-binary people than the American scene.
Jose Toledo, 28, the founding mother of House of Cobras in Colombia, spent time in New York City learning about the ballroom scene. Back in Colombia, when Toledo, who uses her / her pronouns, began to acquire her identity as a non-binary trans woman and founded her own house, she realized that someNew York scene structures did not apply.
Toledo wears makeup, skirts and long nails, but keeps her hair short and feels no need for medical transition. If she walked like a trans woman to a New York prom, she said, she would get you nuanced with comments like, “You don't look like a woman: where's your hair? Where are your breasts? "
Gay people face huge risks of violence and discrimination in Latin America. Ballroom offers family, community and a liberating space to celebrate the nuances of their identity. Colombia is a largely Catholic and socially conservative country, and even in Bogota, relatively progressive, which elected aLesbian mayor in 2019, anecdotes of verbal and physical assault are commonplace. Image Credit ... Camo Delgado Aguilera for Hfrance.fr
Many Bogota ballroom attendees see the genre as fluid and the transition as a process without a destination fixed. Facial hair, body hair, long hair, wigs, makeup, dresses, heels, nails, and lingerie are all fair games to mix and match. Hormone therapy and surgery are not always widely available, or even desired.
Original ba llroom was generally
This also presents a challenge for traditional categories such as "reality", in which Participants compete to determine to what extent they pass as straight if they are gay or as cisgender if they are transgender. Realness celebrates and rewards the death that homosexuals must have suffered. And while some have questioned the continued relevance of reality in New York , it remains an essential piece of the ballroom.
In Latin America, many do not appreciate being judged for how they conform to traditional beauty standards that they may not even try.me not to reach. Image Rebecca Zaa and a masked friend. Credit ... Camo Delgado Aguilera for Hfrance.fr
He additionally, Papu ruffled feathers when criticizing the changes to the original structures. When he started, he said, the reality of walking made him feel comfortable and confident in his body. And to see a predominantly white mixed-race ballroom scene in Colombia altering that culture, removing categories and reality, struck him as disrespectful - he called it a kind of “white thought.”
"If I want to change it, I can," he said of the attitude of some members.white mestizo res to the ballroom. “And if I want to do this, I can. And so I can take whatever is yours and make it mine. "
" We all have our space, and I have it 'feel like this is the space for people like me,' Papou said. If they eliminate reality, he asked, "Where are we going?
Vemanei said some of these compromises are inevitable. “We want everyone to feel free, but how do you define each?
In October, shortly after Papu's ball in Medellin, which was little attended, he sent a note to the community of the ballroom on social media to ask for unity. Image Papua at the Medellin Ball. Credit ... Camo Delgado Aguilera for Hfrance.fr
"When a mistake is made, you apologize," he wrote, although he did not specify why. He has ceased to host the practices in the park, ceding control to others. And he is convinced, he said, that the scene is growing.
" The ballroom ", he wrote," is a big house where we are not always all we will agree but we can help each other and take care from each other. ”