By Sam Rodgers | Nov 6th, 2019

    Artwork by Alonso Ayala (@ouchal)

In the past decade the Iberoamerican world has stepped up to the plate in regards to LGBTQIA+ rights. Portugal, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, the United States, Colombia, and Ecuador have legalized same-sex marriage nationwide within the past ten years. In Mexico, same-sex marriage has been recognized in a majority of states, while Canada and Spain legalized the practice in the 2000s. Latin America has also seen some of the more progressive legislation for trans* people adopted in the last ten years compared with other countries. Politcally, it would seem that the rainbow is bursting out of the Western Hemisphere – indeed, over the last decade not just Iberoamerican, but queer artists worldwide have become more visible and celebrated by an ever growing audience. 

This past decade, at least in the Club Fonograma world, has been dominated by high profile queer Latinxs, Alex Anwandter and Javiera Mena. Both artists have seen tremendous growth over the decade as their fanbases expand outside of their homeland, Chile. Anwandter won a Teddy Award for his first feature film, Nunca vas a estar solo (2016), and has sung the words “el maricón del pueblo” in a Latin Grammy performance. He referenced seminal ballroom scene documentary Paris Is Burning (1990) in the video for “Cómo Puedes Vivir Contigo Mismo?” (2012). He’s also led the way for newcomers like fellow Chileans Francisco Victoria, Entrópica, and Playa Gótica’s Fanny Leona. Meanwhile, Mena created an iconic lesbian music video for her single, “Espada” (2014), and more recently collaborated with Colombia’s gay pop idol Esteman on “Amor Libre” (2019). That’s not to exclude other Chilean queer icons Kali Mutsa and Dënver, the latter producing the very homoerotic video for their song “Los Bikers/Segundas Destrezas” in 2011. 

Across the Andes, Argentine band Miranda! has continued their run of dizzying camp pop, while Uruguay’s Carmen Sandiego’s “Mi Novio Gremlin” (2010) was one of the best-received indie songs of the decade. In Brazil, trans artist/activist Linn da Quebrada (“Linn from the margins”) raps about the issues she faced growing up queer and black in a São Paulo favela. Joining her are São Paulo’s Quebrada Queer, a hip hop cypher which is gaining popularity among young Brazilians living under Jair Bolsonaro, showcasing the argument that being visibly queer and pissed off is the new punk. Their videos have millions of views, but nowhere near the success of Pabllo Vittar, “the Most Popular Drag Queen In The World,” who has over a billion total YouTube views. Just as much in the Brazilian national consciousness now is Club Fonograma favorite SILVA, who, with his 2016 video for “Feliz e Ponto,” cheekily came out as bisexual. 

Staying in the Lusophone world, Titica, Angola’s trans “kuduro” artist, has been a UNAIDS goodwill ambassador following her breakout single with Ary, “Olha O Boneco” (2012), which remains a guaranteed slap. 

Venezuela’s Arca, who is non-binary, has risen to be a worldwide critical darling, not to mention his collaborations with the venerable Björk. Queer Colombian artist Lido Pimienta received the Polaris Music Prize in 2017 for La Papessa (2016) and the world eagerly awaits for the follow-up, Miss Colombia, which should propel her to even greater heights. Dominican author and Club Fonograma heroine Rita Indiana was voted one of the 100 most influential Latinx personalities in 2011 by the newspaper El País, even though we might wait forever for new music from Los Misterios. Meanwhile, this year in Mexico, Juan Manuel Torreblanca went all out with “Maricón” (2019), a song proclaiming reclamation against the slur, haters be damned. And riding the zeitgeist of YouTube makeup tutorials, drag, and anime is Sailorfag, a Sonora native studying fashion in Guadalajara, spitting rhymes about gender performance and homophobia. 

But while there seems to be a wave of LGBTQ artists reaching not-just-niche audiences, not all has been felicitous. The aforementioned President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, is a “proud” homophobe. In 2018 alone, there were a reported 420 murders of LGBT people in the country, and hate crimes are on the rise around the world. In the United States, the Trump administration wants to instill the Religious Freedom Bill giving legal protections to religious organizations to discriminate against LGBT workers. But nothing exemplifies the daily terror experienced by the marginalized more than the second deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida in 2016. Forty-nine people were murdered by a single gunman, while over fifty were wounded. What hit me hardest was that the majority of victims were Latinx and queer. Their tragic deaths remind us that there is still so much work to be done, moving ahead in solidarity, pushing for human rights every person under the LGBTQIA+ umbrella deserves. While queer art can seem the most fun, most colorful, and most human in complexity, it is often underpinned by so much pain and trauma. We’re so proud of the leaps and bounds the queer Latinx artist community has made in the 2010s and we celebrate the bravery it takes to put the self, and the work, “out” there. Judging by the positive support so far, the artists included in this piece (and others you can find here) are blazing a trail to more acceptance and, for their own community, more love.

Remembering those we lost at the Pulse tragedy:
Stanley Almodovar III, 23
Amanda Alvear, 25
Oscar A. Aracena-Montero, 26
Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33
Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21
Martin Benitez Torres, 33
Antonio D. Brown, 30
Darryl R. Burt II, 29
Jonathan A. Camuy Vega, 24
Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28
Simon A. Carrillo Fernandez, 31
Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25
Luis D. Conde, 39
Cory J. Connell, 21
Tevin E. Crosby, 25
Franky J. Dejesus Velazquez, 50
Deonka D. Drayton, 32
Mercedez M. Flores, 26
Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22
Juan R. Guerrero, 22
Paul T. Henry, 41
Frank Hernandez, 27
Miguel A. Honorato, 30
Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40
Jason B. Josaphat, 19
Eddie J. Justice, 30
Anthony L. Laureano Disla, 25
Christopher A. Leinonen, 32
Brenda L. Marquez McCool, 49
Jean C. Mendez Perez, 35
Akyra Monet Murray, 18
Kimberly Morris, 37
Jean C. Nieves Rodriguez, 27
Luis O. Ocasio-Capo, 20
Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez, 25
Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36
Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32
Enrique L. Rios Jr., 25
Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37
Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan, 24
Christopher J. Sanfeliz, 24
Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35
Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25
Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34
Shane E. Tomlinson, 33
Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25
Luis S. Vielma, 22
Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37
Jerald A. Wright, 31

Sam Rodgers is a writer and ESL teacher living in Sydney, Australia. He joined the Club Fonograma team in 2012 after years of fanaticism and he feels so honored to have been part of the family. You can follow him everywhere @anoddgeography.