It was after 9 p.m. on a Saturday night. There were children, parents and passers-by filling the mini-arena built on Joaquin Abensur Boulevard in Iquitos, Peru. A young man in a crop top reading “I my BOY” was in the center of the arena playing.
In this part of the show, the young man approached the male audience, pretending to kiss them with their mouths open. In a country where public displays of affection among queer couples are rare, and a region of the world where roughly 600 LGBT people have died violence between January 2013 and March 2014, this show was a surprise.
When the young man’s lips moved a few millimeters away from those of a spectator, he would stop and walk away, and the crowd erupted into laughter, as if the threat of two men kissing was the most thing. funny scene. world. He also hit his miss-kiss bet with his performance partner, another young man, no older than 21, but a little more ass in his cap, no crop top. It became clear that gender and sexuality were the butt of the joke, but were they making fun of homosexuality or playing with the prejudices that were rampant in Peruvian society?
It must be said that Iquitos has a relatively active queer scene, compared to your mid-sized Peruvian city. There are gay bars, a gay beach, and his own pride, but there is nothing overt about his community. In a country where acceptance is sub-part, we always feel underground, and this show is puzzling.
These street entertainers are in fact street performers, or traveling comedians as they are called in Peru, and they are not only found in Iquitos or in the Amazon. They mostly take place in cities across the country, places like Lima and Huancayo, and take place in public spaces like markets or parks. They are sometimes in the cities during the patron saint’s festivals and can be seen on Peruvian television where the shows are more extravagant (relatively speaking) with sets, costumes and a studio audience.
In an essay entitled “Popular capitalism and subalternity: street actors in Lima“, Victor Vich describes these artists as having” an interest in exchanging (for money) a range of ironic representations of social reality. “Does this imply that there is more to these shows than gay men? mockers?
This is what Victor Alexander Huerta Mercado Tenorio thinks, professor at the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú in Lima and specializing in pop culture and humor. Maybe on a superficial level these shows don’t care about sexuality, but cerebrally they don’t. He says street performers use social tensions.
“There is great tension regarding sexuality in our society. In our society, you are a man or you are a woman, ”says Tenorio. “The environment is loaded with tension, with something dangerous, liminal. So they play with the liminal, with the object that is forbidden.
The fake kiss is a challenge of sorts, and according to Tenorio it’s not always wrong, sometimes the performer pulls it off. He explains that these comedians flirt with a space that no one wants to go to and that surprise is what makes people laugh. By making fun of homosexuality, it becomes a way to cope with the fear of it.
“They’re playing with something that people don’t fully understand… So what we laugh at is one of our biggest fears: the fear of being gay.”