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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Broken Records: Materiality, Temporality, and Queer Belonging in Mexican Drag Cabaret Performance

  • Author(s): Tenorio, David
  • et al.
Creative Commons 'BY' version 4.0 license

In this article, I examine the ways in which drag queens are represented in the literature of Latin American authors, such as Carlos Monsiváis, and Severo Sarduy. I contrast these literary representations to build on what I call an ecology of drag, a network that looks at how material objects activate different modes of perception around queerness, such as saturation and fragmentation. I situate these modes of sensing in the cabaret performance of a drag queen from Mexico City, namely Roberto Cabral. Their performances expose how the politics of sexuality and race propose a critique of history by deploying parody, and cabaret. In this transversal approach to literature, satire, and performance, I argue that drag culture combines affect and a critique of history to foster a sense of belonging in entertainment venues so as to give shape to sexual dissidence in contemporary urban Mexico. This form of sexually dissident culture can be better understood by the notion I refer to as broken record, an affective drive that connects queer memory with the sonic experiences of listening to Mexican romantic ballads. By alluding to popular songs, and literature, I associate drag performance with a repertoire of queer cultural practices that seek to foster a sense of belonging under the economies of queer nightlife. Broken records complicate the linearity of time condensed in a nostalgic nationalism, intermixing temporality, experience, and queer cultural production in the era of neoliberalism, as the practices of consumption turn sexual dissidence into a cultural capital with which queer collectives negotiate everyday life. This sense of brokenness of records metaphorically illustrates historical silences, erasures, violent acts, and misrepresentations sexual dissident cultures endure for social world-making. In this sense, drag performance is a queer cultural form that alters practices of consumption by generating belonging mediated by a sonic affectivity within global queer imaginaries, satirizing a national nostalgia for the masculinization of heroic figures, while ruffling conceptualizations of Mexican popular culture.

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