Caricias, que abrieron las puertas
Al amor y a los instintos
Caricias, que aún sin palabras
Dicen más que un te quiero

- Rocío Durcal
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Caricias is a multimedia project around migrant LGBTQ+ tribute artists who embody and perform as iconic divas in the Latinx community such as Jenni Rivera, Juan Gabriel, Celia Cruz, Chalino Sanchez, Selena, and Paquita la del Barrio. Often performing at backyard tent parties, first communions, weddings, and quinceǹƒera celebrations, these queer artists are hired to be centerpieces of entertainment bringing elements of drag culture, comedy, dance, and beloved songs to intergenerational family gatherings.

Caricias explores the tension within the spectacle of the party performance and the queering of heteronormative and cisgender spaces. The canon of this project also moves past the spectacle into the intimate exchange tribute performers facilitate with their community—where there is euphoria, a playful caress, nostalgia, memory, and catharsis.

Party tribute performances are an informal sector with demand filled predominately by Latinx trans women who can masterfully fill the shoes of Latina divas. The labor, care, and innovation can be traced in the design and hand-making of their costumes, the discipline of embodying famous artists, leading multiple acts of entertainment, and the giving of emotional labor to a demanding crowd. These performance artists invite spectators to participate and to embrace closeness, holding their discomfort and often subverting it as palpable comedy.

The project aims to show the nuances “behind the tarp” of party performances and how artists create radically queer and supportive spaces during times of heavy persecution for migrants and LGBTQ people in the Americas. As Mexico, El Salvador and Honduras continue to be among the most violent place for women, LGBTQ, femme, and gender non- conforming people, the project inquires a reflection of selective acceptance of queer and transgender bodies within and outside the context of party tribute performances.

Caricias is fitting for Metro audiences because it invites the everyday transient community into a conversation around joy, quotidian spectacles, celebrations, and momentary euphoria that are sourced by queer cultural production. How is greater society vitalized and appropriative of queer culture and queer presence? The photographs in Caricias center queer, predominately trans performers and the rupture they evoke within their community to dissolve rigid ideas around sexuality, gender, identity, desire and love.
                                                       
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Arlene Mejorado
Photographer based in Los Angeles, California
Public Story
Caricias
Copyright Arlene Mejorado 2023
Updated Oct 2022
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