Picturing New Narratives: Ricardo Bouyett

By Nohemi Rosales

Where does art originate? How can art be healing?

For Ricardo Bouyett, a fine art photographer and filmmaker, making art starts with two things; emotions and colors. It starts inside his mind; he experiences everything through color. To him, is a very intimate experience.

Inspiration also comes to him through his emotions. When asked why he makes certain pieces, Bouyett states that his feelings guide him. “I’m just a big bag of emotions. So when I feel something, it just floods until I explode,” he says. “When I see something in my mind, I just know I have to make it. I feel like something is taking over me."

Ranging from fine art portraiture, to short film narratives, Bouyett's art is subversive. Though it is fictional, it makes an impact by telling stories of real life issues. His photographs and films grapple with the complexities of toxic masculinity, homophobia, sexual and domestic violence, rape culture, gender, and race.

One of his very first projects was a poetry series titled Letters for My Body that he wrote for himself as a form of healing from the trauma of being a rape survivor. “At the time, I didn’t know who to talk to about it,” he says. “I had never heard men talk about [rape]. I had never even heard them mention it, so I didn’t know where to go.”

When asked about his work, Ricardo doesn’t really refer to himself as an artist, but rather someone who is just trying to get a story out there. In the photography and film industry,  there is a lack of discussion on how men are involved in conversations and discourses about rape. “At the end of the day, all of these issues on domestic violence and sexual violence are men’s issues. And I don’t think they get addressed in that manner,” Bouyett says.

“We all know how crooked the system is,” he says. “But we’re not having conversations on how we can hold ourselves accountable. Let’s start with our homes, with our communities, and ask ourselves how we can change.”

“Ultimately," he says, “what I want to do with my art, is spark some inspiration in men, so that they can look within themselves and ask ‘how am I [contributing] to rape culture, how can I be a voice to change this culture?”

As a gay Puerto Rican, he lives to defy expectations imposed on him, whether it be about sexuality, gender, or race.

In his work, Bouyett beautifully confronts trauma, abuse, love, and desire. His photographs are whimsical, and slightly fantastical. They speak to the feelings we have, but cannot always explain.

In “Oh Buoy”, a collection of fine art photographs paired with poetry, there is a poem that examines manhood in American society, part of which reads;

“Shove me into a lilac bush.

Crush my bones and my heart,

So I can learn to unfeel.

Teach me the ways of men.

 

Bury me in the ground for refusing hate.

Scold me for loving other men.

Kill me in the name of machismo pride.

Teach me the ways of men.”

While going through Ricardo’s collection of short film narratives, entitled Lionheart, it is hard not to feel enveloped in a world that was at once both beautifully fictional and painfully real. The narratives pull at the heart: a mother who finds her son wearing lipstick, a man being beat up and called a faggot by his own brother, a woman being choked by her husband.

Though I don’t know the actors, the fictional victims of violence and hate, I know and feel their pain. The way Bouyett creates their realities is a mirror of our own lives, and he sparks the necessary reactions we should all have towards this violence.

His pieces are visually and emotionally invoking, truly provocative, and inspiring. Bouyett’s beliefs and creations leave viewers thinking that if we only had more art makers who are as in tune with their feelings and ideas and as passionate about transforming the current rhetoric of violence, rape, and identity as he is, we would see great, monumental change.

Cabrona Is Here for All The Cabronas

By Nohemi Rosales

Photo by Annie Zidek

Photo by Annie Zidek

If you wanna know what’s badass, Latinx, queer, feminist, bilingual, and punk in the Chicago music scene, look no further than Cabrona Band.

Having roots in Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Guatemala, Cabrona’s members are here to make their presence known in a male-dominated, white-washed music industry.

Their music style has been described as punkish; it’s similar to Spanish rock but with punk elements.  They also aren’t afraid to stray and throw some folk, jazz, classical, and latin styles in there.

It all started when Jax ‘Loca Malcriada’ Ovalle and Becca ‘Basura’ Perez met in high school when they were teens.

“We had actually started a band with one of our friends, who was a dude, and we were like ‘he is so bossy, we just need to start an all-girl band.’ That was our dream for years,” Becca explained.

When Jax went to college at Northwestern, she met Fatima ‘Fatale’ Gomez while playing Mariachi there.

“Long story short, the men there were just like sexist assholes,” Fatima says. “We both ended up leaving at different times. Jax had the idea to finally start the band. At first we talked about me joining the band, but we weren’t really sure how a violin was going to fit in. We finally started rehearsing in October of 2014.”

Drummer, Javier ‘La Virgen’ Lom, didn’t join the band until August of 2015. He and Jax had met in high school, where they played in the marching band together. But it wasn’t until they matched on Tinder that they started bonding over music. Originally Javier got involved with Cabrona as their tech guy, troubleshooting any and all technical issues, but when their original drummer moved out of the country, they brought in Javier.

During their show at Bottom Lounge in early June, the band played for what was described as a “small, but mighty” audience with a lot of energy.

They had played previously all over the city, including at Fed Up Fest in 2015. Jax reflected on the Bottom Lounge show, saying, “Fed Up Fest was like playing to a crowd of fresh ears and at that point our band was pretty much only playing to fresh ears. But at this point, it was mainly only fans in front of us. So we when we were like ‘hey, we’re Cabrona’ we got like a huge cheer, instead of being like ‘hey, we’re Cabrona’ and hearing crickets.”

Originally called Chemical X, an ode to the beloved Powerpuff Girls, they eventually changed their name to Cabrona to more closely represent their roots.

“There was a lot of weird metal bands called Chemical X. One day my mom was tucking me in and I said something rude to her so she said ‘aye Cabrona’ and I was like ‘WOAH. That’s it, that’s the name’,” Jax explains.

The word cabrona, for anyone who speaks Spanish, has a lot of meaning. In English, it means bitch, but the band’s Facebook page offers a definition with deeper significance.

“Bitch: Describes assertive, intelligent, independent, self-confident woman who knows what she wants and struggling to get it without excuses or concessions. Women who challenge and not pleased with obvious answers but always finds the correct answer. Forming relationships and close ties not by necessity but by choice and, consequently, seeks to achieve a better life for herself and those around her.”

For all members, being a Cabrona is something unique, but it also binds them together.

For Fatima, being a Cabrona means having her own persona that she can embody on stage. “I am a classical violinist and a Mariachi violinist,” she says. “Both of those genres and traditions are very rigid in terms of their gender roles, so to me, this is a space where I don’t have to fit into a box.”

Javier says that as someone who identifies as male, the meaning is a little different. “It’s about completely subverting my identity when I’m with the band. When I’m onstage, I just think of myself as being me — not a straight cis-male. Calling myself a Cabrona has changed how I think of myself a lot.”

Similarly to Fatima’s reality, Jax also experienced sexism from the Mariachi group they were in, as well as other male-dominated music spaces.  For her, being a Cabrona means to be bossy and to take control “It’s kind of like when the Riot Grrrls were writing the word ‘slut’ on their bodies. If you’re going to call me that I’m going to reclaim that word,” she says.

Their place in Chicago’s music scene has always garnered positive feedback. Being Latinx or queer are identities that are difficult to carry in society, especially when you’re both. There was one instance during one of their shows at the Mutiny, a Chicago dive club, in which they felt discriminated. They had just played “Jigsaw,” a song dedicated to the undocumented Latinxs in this country, when a white man in the audience started making disrespectful jokes.

“But that’s why we do what we do. Though at the same time, it was really infuriating,” Jax says.

“Jigsaw” isn’t the only song that Cabrona uses to talk about real world issues happening in marginalized communities. Javier’s favorite song is “Celia,” which is a cover of Celia Cruz’s “La Vida Es Un Carnaval,” just a little bit more punk in style.

For Becca and Jax, the song “Queen” is the one they’ve enjoyed working on the most. Written by Jax after quitting Mariachi, it was written as a ‘fuck you’ to machistas.  It starts off with Jax singing in a very sweet, girly voice and then it grows in intensity. The song ends with a saying Jax’s mom used to tell her if someone was bullying her: “el valiente llega hasta donde el cobarde deja,” meaning, the valiant one will only get as far as the coward allows.

Though they’ve all found healing through making music, their songs are not just for them. Having been told that their music has been therapeutic for their listeners, Cabrona wants to ensure that the feeling remains. As first generation Latinxs, they want to represent others who are underrepresented.

“I don’t get to see many Latinx people on stage with guitars singing about machismo and that’s incredibly important,” Jax says. Javier states that he wants their songs to, “put fuckbois on blast.” Can I get a “hell yeah,”?

Their music, more than anything, is about reaching out to marginalized people and making them feel empowered. It’s about allowing people similar to them to vibe with them and feel good about themselves in a world that is constantly trying to make us feel bad for being queer, or brown, or different in any way. It’s about loving ourselves and saying ‘fuck off’ to those who don’t agree.

 

Follow Cabrona on social media and get in touch with your inner Cabrona:

Facebook: facebook.com/cabronaband

Twitter: @cabronaband

Instagram: @cabronaband

Soundcloud: soundcloud.com/cabronaband

Bandcamp: cabrona.bandcamp.com

See the whole issue here.

My Roots Say “Fuck the American Dream”

My roots are an immigrant’s struggle, specifically that of my parents. My roots grow from bloody hands, from sweat-drenched clothing, aching muscles, pinched nerves, sunburnt skin, and relentless hearts. The following words are deeply rooted in mi papa and mi mama. All of my knowledge, I owe to them

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My dad pulls the bill of his cap down over his eyes, leans his head back on the edge of the couch, and tells me, “no es justo mija” (it is not fair, my daughter).

I know he’s on the verge of crying; his voice is shaking and he won’t make eye contact. It’s a Sunday evening and he can’t enjoy his only day off. The word “debt’ is too heavy, too scary, too debilitating.

My aunt and I are sitting on the couch with him trying to reassure him that it’ll be okay. But he’s $10,000 dollars in debt. I tell him that it’s not so bad, that there are people who owe way more, and for stupid reasons. He tells me that it’s not about the amount, that it’s about the injustice. And I understand, or I think I do.

My dad hates America, and I do too. He’s always been able to put it into words, way long before I started getting into social justice. He would tell me “in this country, the poor and uneducated have to work like mules for the rich and privileged. I’m sick of it, I’m a human, I’m not a farm animal.”

He came to the US when he was a young teenage boy; he labored in California’s farmland for about ten years, living in Chicago briefly, and returning to Mexico a few times a year to visit us. He was gone for the first few years of my life, until my mom demanded that he take my older brothers and I back to the United States with him.

His 15 hour shifts picking artichoke, strawberries, broccoli, spinach, etc. paid for the rent of our home - a tiny blue trailer home a few miles from Salinas - and kept our stomachs full. Coming from our previous home in rural Mexico, where we wouldn’t have much to eat if we couldn’t sell a cow, pig, chicken, etc. for money, our first few months in the US were a dramatic improvement.

We stayed in California for about half a year, until I was six. But then my older brother Ezequiel started hanging out with gang members in Castroville. My parents feared he would become a criminal and end up in jail, so we moved to rural Illinois. My father traded in his connection to the land to work in a meat-packing factory, where he would insert rectal cleansers inside of dead pigs. My mother, who had previously not worked, had to join him in order to make ends meet. She worked third shift, dipping her gloved hands into the hot blood gathered inside of pig skulls in order to scoop out every pig brain that passed by her on the assembly line. They worked like this for 10 years, succumbing to long hours, strict rules, strong punishments and discrimination at Farmland Foods.

Looking back, I’m not sure what kept my parents going. I can’t imagine what would drive 12 hour shifts, 6 days a week, inside of such an awful workplace. Perhaps it was putting my brothers and I through school that kept them going. Ultimately, I think it was all part of the American Dream; the false belief that if you work yourself almost to death, you will one day be economically stable and happy. I think they worked for a day in the future where they wouldn’t have to use credit cards or borrowed money to pay for all of our food, our health expenses, our books for school, our clothing, our basic needs.

When the opportunity to break free from Farmland came, it was because my dad got fired for taking a dollar bill that he found sticking out of a vending machine, even though he had planned to turn it in. Luckily, my brother Ezequiel had moved to Houston where he worked as a logistics agent at an international logistics company and managed to get my dad a job there.

Houston was supposed to be a breakthrough for my parents; life in the suburbs, a new job where my cousin’s husband was the manager, where the workers were treated well, given monthly lunches, no pig carcasses in sight, just some boxes and forklifts.

But we are here, four years later.

After talking to my aunt and I for a while, I can tell my dad can’t keep the tears in any longer. He has to be up at 4am the next morning so he says goodnight and goes into his bedroom. As I sit on the couch listening to the sniffles coming from his bedroom, I think about our conversation, about my family’s constant struggle to just make ends meet, to be “successful”, to live the “American Dream”, and I am suddenly overwhelmed by the fact that shame is what is making my father so sad. He feels defeated by the system, and he feels like he’s failed his family.  

I sit and wonder what he’s thinking; I’m sure his past is on his mind, or rather, his proximity to the past he’s tried to leave so long ago. His intelligence and awareness of injustices are far greater than mine, because he’s lived them his entire life. Though he might not have the social justice language for it, he is falling asleep in tears because he feels the weight and pain and abuse of living in a racist, sexist, capitalist society that tells men that if they can’t provide for their families, they’re worthless.

All of this rushes through me as my dad’s sniffles get louder, so I go into his bedroom and hug him, I tell him that I love him. He tells me, “I’m not a bad person. I’m going to pay. I just need time. But they (debt collectors/third party groups/the legal system) won’t give me time.” I tell him that we’re in this as a family, and that I understand. I understand that they don’t care. Bank of America doesn’t give a shit about me or my family, or anyone’s family, they just plaster children’s faces on their advertisements to appeal to good ol’ Americans who are wealthy and privileged enough to believe in corporations, or in this country really.

As I hug my dad, I realize that more than anything, he is starting to understand that no matter how many steps you take in the right direction, no matter how much you play by the rules, you are most likely going to end up losing. I think that he is, or maybe I am, or perhaps both of us are simultaneously understanding that you can go to jail for trying to live the American dream. You can run away from bad decisions, have good morals, a family, but you still run the risk of being criminalized, for being poor and racking up too much debt to keep your family well fed and well educated; for being Mexican immigrants who are doing everything in their power to get ahead given their limited circumstances. No matter what, it is not enough for American banks, for the law, for corporations. No matter what good my family has done, it still falls short in the eyes of this corrupt system.

How I'm Using Facebook to Share Radical Content With My Family

By Nohemi Rosales

The very first time I was confronted by my family about the content on my Facebook was my freshman year in college. I was not yet out, and had posted a photograph of my girlfriend at the time and I kissing. Early the next morning, on my way home from her house, I got a phone from my mom. She had seen the picture, and told me if it was some sort of joke. “Women kiss men, not other women. Don’t post those things on Facebook.”

Then a year later I was confronted again by my brother. At that time, I identified as lesbian, and he was completely supportive. Regardless, he told me that I should censor my Facebook posts about my gayness/queerness in general. Apparently my mom had come to him the night before, worried, because one of my tias had seen an article I shared about Pride and same sex marriage and asked my mom if I was gay. He told me it wasn’t so much that my mom had a problem with it, but that she had no idea, because I’d never talked to her about it.

“I know you’re proud of your identity, as you should be,” my brother told me, “but you have to understand where you come from. You have a very large, very old school Mexican family.”

Before that moment, I hadn’t fully understood why I couldn’t be open about my queerness. It was my Facebook, afterall. It was my identity, my life. But now, I understand something I didn’t before; that instead of hiding my queerness from my family, I was actually hiding my family from my queerness. I didn’t know how at the time, but I wanted to bring my family into my queerness, to include them in it so that they could come to understand it and accept it - but how?

Ever since that day, I’ve started noticing where my family's fears and anxieties about queerness came from.

The most evident example was the media, or more importantly, the media that is accessible to Latinx families who don’t speak English. For most my life, my parents have relied on the same three TV news shows - Aquí y Ahora, Primer Impacto, and Noticiero Univision - for an understanding of things happening around them.

It is said that ignorance + fear = hate. And if I’ve learned anything from those news shows, it is that they are not only ignorant about news coverage, but that they also instill fear in their audience. Their news coverage is often so dramatized and violently exaggerated for entertainment value, so much so that to anyone who had never seen it before it could be considered satire. It’s so intense, that if my mom has nightmares one night, it’s most likely because she watched one of those shows before going to bed.

But above all, what is most damaging, is that they don’t take the responsibility of educating. I remember watching  trans rights segment on Noticiero Univision with my parents one day while I was in high school. I’ll never forget when the reporter said the word “transgénero” and my parents looked at each other confused until my dad said “I wonder what that means.” At the time, I didn’t have the language to be able to explain it to them in English even, much less in Spanish.

So now, as I write this, I think about how understanding and patience goes both ways.

How could I expect my parents who were working full time, from sunrise to sundown, who only had an hour in the morning and an hour at night to themselves, to access the most progressive media available to them in their language, to fully understand the advanced vocabulary, and to fully understand queerness? It’s unrealistic, and honestly, unfair. But through carefully navigating my Facebook content, progress has been made.

During my most recent trip home at end of May, I sat in the back seat of my parent’s car and patiently awaited what I already knew was at the top of the list on their agenda.

“I’ve already told you, don’t post photographs of Brian wearing makeup or skirts on Facebook,” my mom said to me as we got on the highway. Ironically, it was my dad who stood up for me and said “it’s not that we have a problem with it, but you know how the family is, you know people, they’ll talk and we don’t think it’s any of their business.”

Just a few months before I had called them to let them know Brian was my partner, and was coming home with me for Spring Break. She told me she wasn’t sure, that my dad didn’t want my partner to come home because they’d seen pictures of Brian dressed up on Facebook, and that didn’t understand it. Despite being on the verge of tears, I tried to calmly explain that it’s about pushing past gender roles/norms, and tried to give her the best definition of what it means to be gender non-conforming without using language that would be too intimidating.

Eventually, they opened up and welcomed Brian, with a bit of uncertainty, but in the end everything worked out fine.  It’s still evident to me that my family doesn’t understand queerness completely - which is more than okay, because it takes time (god knows it’s taken me 21 years to understand my own).

So, one day while I was home, I was updating some things for my mom on her Facebook (I basically manage my parent’s Facebook's when I go home) and I realized the content on her newsfeed was very, very different from mine. So then I got an idea; I looked up all the progressive/radical organizations’ pages I follow, such as We are Mitu, Latina Rebels, Pierna Cruzada, Latina Feminista and liked them for her.

When I’m not home and unable to engage in full conversations with my parents (or hack their Facebooks) I try to manage my Facebook posts in a way that is true to both sides of me, in order to bridge the gap between them. By posting things in Spanish, such as TimeOut Mexico’s LGBTQ glossary or a children’s trans rights video from an organization in Chile, as well as maintaining a relationship with my family members on Facebook, I can feel them slowly coming into my queerness and understand what it means to me.

I hope that within the small amount of time my family has for themselves to scroll through their Facebook newsfeed, they can access Latinx based content about queerness, race, capitalism, feminism, etc. I don’t think they’ll get it perfect any time soon. This is just the start. But I hope that they can continue to grow to understand me, my partner, and queerness in general. Not just because it benefits me, but because it would bring my family a lot of relief. I don’t want my mom to have nightmares, to worry about what it means for me to be queer, I just don’t want my family to live in fear.

The way I manage my Facebook is without a doubt not just for me, though I’ve been told many times to just be myself and block the people that don’t agree. That would be easy, sure, but that would distance my family from my life. As difficult as it is for me to have conversations surrounding queerness, race, and class, I think it is the work I must do. That’s why my Facebook is about sparking new ways of thinking and talking. But more than anything, it’s about transgressing education from the current inaccessible areas such as academia and mainstream media in English, into the cell phones in my parents hands at the end of a long day of work.

 

Additionally, here’s a list I’ve compiled, thanks to my Facebook friends, of radical/progressive Facebook pages that have Latinx based content or are in Spanish. Enjoy, and please share!

RemezclaMijenteXicanismaGozamosEstudios de Género en América LatinaAntipatriarcalesDiario Ciudadano de Puerto RicoFlamateleSur EnglishNalgona Positivity PrideMujeres De MaizEl HuatequeConrazónLa Liga ZineVoto LatinoUndocuMedia