Pictured, from left: Carlos Morales, Rudy Bleu, Michael Rodriguez, and Manuel Paul (Facebook/Maricón Collective)
If you’ve been to a gay bar or an art opening on the east side of Los Angeles in the past year, you probably noticed someone wearing a snapback hat emblazoned with the word “maricón” in gothic letters.
Maricón is a slur. It’s Spanish for “faggot.” That may seem like a strange adopted name for a group of queer Chicano artists, but the Maricón Collective have been positively reappropriating the term in their work as a central source of empowerment.
The art and DJ collective, which hosts parties and various participatory art projects around Los Angeles, was started in 2014 by Rudy Bleu, Carlos Morales, Manuel Paul, and Michael Rodriguez. All four men grew up east of the L.A. River, where the machismo culture made it difficult to come out. But their hometown was also the place that brought them together, at basement punk shows and family barbeques.
Bleu and Morales grew close as teens in the punk scene and queer backyard “tea parties” of the San Gabriel Valley. Years later they discovered Paul’s art on Tumblr: handsome mustachioed cholos kissing, drawn on lined notebook paper richly decorated with roses and gothic “tags,” and largely inspired by cult 'zines like the 1970s-era Teen Angels.
Artwork by Manuel Paul (Maricón Collective)
Over coffee, the three men and Rodriguez met and discussed their love for queer and Chicano culture, and decided to band together. Last April, the Maricón Collective held their first party at Akbar, a popular gay dive in Silverlake. The event was such a success that the Collective has been hosting regular events since.
Inspired by those warm family gatherings and east L.A. “backyard boogies”, Maricón Collective events have a casual, familial atmosphere in which all are welcome. Some of their programming has attracted queer people of color to art spaces that usually fill with mostly-white audiences—a blessing for Los Angeles, a city whose burgeoning art scene doesn’t always reflect its diverse population of artists.
A recent Maricón Collective party in L.A. (Facebook/Maricón Collective)
They’ve hosted dance parties at the gallery Human Resources and the Tom of Finland Foundation, accompanied by 'zines and limited-edition shirts, and have worked with artists like Shizu Saldamando and Alice Bag. This June, Maricón will unveil a mural at the Galería de la Raza, in San Francisco, and host a screening at Outfest of In Search of Margo-go, a never-before-seen film by iconic DIY filmmaker Jill Reiter, starring Bikini Kill frontwoman Kathleen Hana.
The word maricón retains its sting, but the Maricón Collective is just getting started. Their unique blend of punk programming, mixing underappreciated gems of queer and Chicano culture with the atmosphere of an eastside L.A. party, is slowly redefining the term as a jubilant adjective in local gay enclaves. Eventually, more queers may self-label as maricónes, taking away its power from the sullen mouth of homophobes.
[H/T: L.A. Weekly]
For more information, visit the Maricón Collective's Facebook page