Arnaldo M. Cruz-Malavé, the director of the Latin American and Latino Studies Institute at Fordham University, tells us about Loisaida’s celebration of LGBTQ Latin@s as part of Loisaida Fest, this upcoming Memorial Day weekend!

Loisaida Inc Celebrates the Contribution of LGBTQ Latin@s with a Cabaret where some of New York City’s most legendary queer Latin@ performance artists will pay tribute to a long tradition LGBTQ Latin@ artistic expression, experimentation and activism in Loisaida. Iconic Loisaida spoken-word artist and novelist Emanuel Xavier, Lesbian underground playwright and performer, Susana Cook, award-winning actor, director and artistic director of Pregones Theater, Jorge Merced, acclaimed performance artist and scholar of the Lower East Side, Karen Jaime, and the Puerto Rican drag performer, cooking show hostess, and NYC scholar Lola von Miramar (a.ka. Larry LaFountain-Stokes), will perform in the best tradition of Loisaida innovation, experimentation and political irreverence. The Cabaret will take place at the Loisaida Center on Friday, May 22 at 8:30 p.m.

The Loisaida Center’s Queer Latin@ Loisaida celebration, which is curated by Arnaldo M. Cruz-Malavé, the director of the Latin American and Latino Studies Institute at Fordham University, will also pay homage to two of the founding figures of Queer Latin@ Loisaida art and activism, drag performer Mario Montez (1935-2013) and performance artist Alina Troyano (a.k.a Carmelita Tropicana), divas of queer Latin@ Loisaida cinema and stage, by showing two of their most representative and rare films, José Rodríguez-Soltero’s The Life, Death, and Assumption of Lupe Velez (1966) and Ela Troyano’s Your Kunst Is Your Waffen (1996).  The viewing of Lupe will be introduced by Yale University film historian and curator Ron Gregg.  The viewings ofLupe and Your Kunst will be followed by Q & A with curator Ron Gregg, the artist Alina Troyano, and the director Ela Troyano.

Mario Montez is one of Loisaida’s most legendary artists. Born in Ponce, Puerto Rico, he moved to NYC as a child and became one of Warhol’s “superstars,” starring in 13 of his films.  He got his start in Jack Smith’s groundbreaking underground films,Flaming Creatures and Normal Love, and soon became a staple of Lower East Side underground film and stage.  He was an actor and co-founder of Charles Ludlum’s Ridiculous Theatrical Company.  In José Rodríguez-Soltero’s The Life, Death, and Assumption of Lupe Velez (1966), Montez plays the role of ill-fated Latina Hollywood diva Lupe Vélez. Both LES camp and Latin American baroque exaltation, a satire of Hollywood in the 1930s as well as an over-the-top nostalgic take on Hollywood’s Orientalist fantasies via 1950s television, Lupe was, according to Montez, his best film.  It was also the best film by Rodríguez-Soltero, who was, like Montez, a Puerto Rican migrant to the LES during the turbulent and revolutionary 1960s.  To see both these two great LES artists at work is a rare treat.

Alina Troyano, known for her exhuberant persona Carmelita Tropicana, the “Song Bird of Cuba,”is synonymous with Queer Latin@ Loisaida.  An internationally acclaimed performance artist, playwright and actor of New York’s downtown scene, Troyano is the author of  I, Carmelita Tropicana, Performing Between Cultures, whose pieces and acts have been presented all over the world at venues such as the Institute of Contemporary Art in London, Centre de Cultura Contemporanea in Barcelona, the Berlin International Film Festival, the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York, the Mark Taper Forum’s Kirk Douglas Theater in Los Angeles, and New York’s El Museo del Barrio. She has received numerous awards including the prestigious Anonymous Was a Woman and fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts as well as an Obie for Sustained Excellence in Performance.

The rarely seen Your Kunst Is Your Waffen, directed by the also acclaimed filmmaker Ela Troyano, is a politically savvy, committed romp where a group of Latina Lesbian activists fights the assault on women’s rights and the gentrification of the LES with the weapons of musical comedy, humor, self-conscious kitsch and melodrama.  Based in part on the work of Celeste Olalquiaga’s meditation on the postmodern recycling of kitsch, Your Kunst takes us to the days where artistic innovation, humor, art and activism where joined forces in the LES to fight for collective empowerment. Not to be missed.

The Film viewings and the Q & A with the presence of the authors Alina Troyano and Ela Troyano will be held on Saturday, May 23 at 1:00 pm at the Loisaida Center.

These events celebrating the contributions of LGBTQ Latin@s to Loisaida culminate with a Panel on The State of Research on Queer Latin@ Loisaida.  Distinguished scholars Frances Negrón-Muntaner, author of Boricua Pop and director of the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Columbia University, Roy Pérez from Willamette University, Karen Jaime from Cornell University, Lawrence LaFountain-Stokes from University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and author of Queer Ricans, and Arnaldo Cruz-Malavé, author of Queer Latino Testimonio, Keith Haring and Juanito Xtravaganza and director of the Latin American and Latino Studies Institute at Fordham, will discuss what Latin@ lgbtq artists and activists have contributed to the culture of experimentation,  individual expression and social innovation that is associated with Loisaida, where we should we look to recover the “hidden” or unexplored histories of Queer Latin@ Loisaida, and what role or roles queer Latin@ Loisaida artists and activists have played in the cultural, social, and economic transformations of Loisaida from 1970s to the present.

The Panel will be held on Saturday, May 23 at 3:00 pm at the Loisaida Center as the expanded programming of the Annual Loisaida Festival this Memorial Day Weekend (May 22-24).

The 28th Annual Loisaida Festival Street Fair, will be held on Sunday, May 24th in Ave C between 6th & 12th Street. For a complete list of these cultural events and of the annual street festival on Sunday, May 24, go to: http://www.loisaidafest.org/

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