5 DJs and Event Producers Behind Queer-Friendly Latinx Nightlife Spaces React to Orlando Shooting

Lead Photo: Papi Juice hosts Kiki and Zack with Maluca’s DJ, Mess Kid. Photo by: Javier Romero
Papi Juice hosts Kiki and Zack with Maluca’s DJ, Mess Kid. Photo by: Javier Romero
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We are all in mourning over the Pulse nightclub tragedy in Orlando that took 49 lives, injured many more, and stole the peace of LGBTQ people and allies across the country. Right now, it’s hard not to break down in tears while poring over the faces of those who perished, the faces that resemble nephews, cousins, siblings, and many beloved people in the Latinx community.

For the queer community, clubs like Pulse function as more than just a place to dance, drink, and dress in all the glitter and spandex your heart desires. Nightlife functions as therapy, as healing, and for many, as a method to maintain sanity in a society that constantly seeks to kill, abuse, neglect, and disrespect you.

Speaking with Democracy Now, Daniel Leon-Davis, a man who frequented Pulse said that it wasn’t just a gay club, “This was a gay club with so many young people of color who really took it as home. It was almost like a community center. Like, there were weeks where I went to Pulse like three or four times. And it wasn’t all about dancing and drinking. It was about actually building community. And I think, for me, it was the first place I built community where I felt safe.”

He’s not alone in feeling this way. Ask anyone who has been to the Papi Juice parties, the Azucar parties, or even the GHE20GOTH1K parties in New York City. Many clubs and nightlife venues offer liberating spaces where being queer, fat, femme, and/or trans is not something out of the ordinary. They provide spaces where you can love yourself, or simply exist beyond the judging eyes of strangers.

“You go to the club with your chosen family. You go there to see all your favorite people. I can’t even imagine the pain that people might be feeling having their loved ones lost in the spaces they found to be the most human,” said Oscar Nuñez, a DJ who throws the party Papi Juice for queer and trans people of color. “This is going to be something we think about for the rest of our lives. June 11th is a date that I will forever remember now.”

Like many of you, in addition to the pain brought on by seeing vulnerable human life stolen, I also cringed at the thought of bigots twisting details of the tragedy to suit their own political agendas in mainstream and social media. But instead of giving those people voice, I would like to offer reactions, laments, and healing offerings from people who provide safe spaces for queer nightlife across the US. As DJs, event organizers, promoters, safe space-creators, their voices should be heard above the hateful, distorted, and intolerant noise.

Thanu Yakupitiyage AKA DJ Ushka, throws iBomba party in New York City

All my thoughts are with the victims of the Orlando Pulse Nightclub shooting (numbers of dead and injured still rising). Club life is about joy, about letting loose, being care free and being able to be who you are. To be staked out, shot, and attacked at a place of celebration is horrific. The sheer hatred that still exists for queer people is unfathomable.

but the fact that the media is already painting this as an “act of Islamic terror” with few facts is preposterous and we cannot buy into it. You can’t fight Homophobia and Transphobia by being Islamophobic.

This makes me want to hold my community so close. As someone who throws club events and goes to club events – the safety of those on the dance floor is primary. This type of violence is about getting to people at their most joyous, but we cannot let hatred make us less free.

Mohammed Fayaz AKA Mo Juicy, throws the Papi Juice party in New York City

Don’t really know what to say. Heart and mind are heavy with loss. Thinking of fifty angels who left too soon, thinking of how they could have been us and how they are us. Thinking of the crowded Brooklyn Pride party I was at last night full of Black and Brown kids and the freedom we seek and find and create for ourselves in stuff like our nightlife, stuff that has usually excluded us. That a night for the Latinx community in Orlando was butchered like this hits close to home and hurts. As someone who holds space for a very vulnerable community, our parties and our events and our camaraderie are our lifeline, our culture, our space to thrive and blossom and act a fool and to be silly as fuck and look amazing – and that someone gets to come in and do this is terrifying, a reminder that we are not welcome here and that is our reality. Praying and praying for those beautiful kids in Orlando and the trauma and fear and pain they are burdened with. Praying for all the moms who lost their babies today ? so unfair in this sick and stupid ass world. Hold your loved ones closer and closer every day.

Isabel Buchanan Arellano AKA caliXta, VJ, DJ, throws CumbiaSazo! party in Chicago

Part of my work has been to make nightlife events that are transformative and healing, and I just think of all the joy and freedom that I’ve experienced in gay clubs and gay spaces and how important it has been for me. To see that so twisted by hate absolutely shreds my heart apart. I encourage those people who are not aware of how much hate speech affects the communities it is directed towards to please take this moment to reflect on how hate speech has very real effects in the world, the heaviest weight of which is carried by the people that hate is directed towards. I also encourage people to not be taken in by the anti-Muslim rhetoric that is framing this event, as it is very much connected to the hate frameworks that weave our society. Our hearts ache because of what happened, but we will stand stronger in our love, and don’t need to further perpetuate hate in all of this. Those of us who are working to change society’s hate, to heal, to educate, to create spaces, and all the beautiful and creative expressions there are for making social change, our work is that much more important now. No matter how much hatred is out there, love will prevail.

Chaska Sofia aka Precolumbian, co-producer & resident of the Cutn Paste party in Philadelphia

Numb. As a creator of safe(r) spaces for the queer community, specifically qtpoc community, I’m numb. Sending love to Orlando, my extended queer community, and all my queer creator homies out there (who I know are hella feeling this rn).

They don’t want us to live. So we gonna live & thrive.

Ang Garcia AKA DJ.Ang.G, DJs out of Austin, San Antonio and Chicago

The events at Pulse are a poignant reminder that we must remain resilient, steadfast, unwavering, careful, resolute, and mindful of our environment all of the time. That is harmful to our quality of life. We have been persecuted, hunted and harmed for centuries, yet we continue to celebrate our queerness despite the dangers.

As a DJ, I’m afforded a certain amount of privilege of staying away from the large crowd, be it behind the DJ booth or back stage. So, I do feel a certain sense of responsibility to ensure the safety of my community, be it before, during, or after a show. When an attack occurs to anyone, it is too many, and we must step up to ensure we are safe. As a community, we all have a responsibility to create a safe space.

While my heart hurts because we still live in a society that vilifies people based on how able-bodied we are, our age, skin color, race, gender expression, and sexual preference, I know we must carry on with light and love and hope. Hope that there will be spaces, places and times when we can let go and be free, carefree, without the worry of harm to our physical and mental space by a few who feel it their duty to bend our will.

“Keep pushing on things are gonna get better.” – Inaya Day.