Fashion, Wrestling & Trans Activism Take Center Stage at Fuerza Fest 2019

Lead Photo: Collage by Alan López for Remezcla
Collage by Alan López for Remezcla
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Latinx LGBTQ Arts Festival Fuerza Fest will kick off its fourth edition this Wednesday, May 8, spotlighting filmmakers, activists and educators over the course of 12 action-packed days. Launched by the Hispanic Federation in 2016 and hosted at the Julia de Burgos Performance & Arts Center in New York City, the festival celebrates vibrant diversity in the Latinx community, giving a platform to queer and trans voices exploring visual arts, politics, and performance.

Fuerza Fest’s theme for 2019 is “HONOR the past, DEFEND the future,” a mission aiming to “Recognize Latinx heroes that were at the forefront of the LGBTQ movement fighting for change, inclusion and acceptance.” Past editions of the festival honored gay undocumented activist Moises Serrano and the 49 victims of the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando. This year, Samy Nemir’s documentary Stonewall with a T, a panel discussion on the life and work of Sylvia Rivera, and an expansive art exhibit will keep the focus on transgender activism and community organizing.

Fuerza Fest will include numerous film screenings, mixers, a one-act play competition and even queer burlesque, presented by Caribe Bestial on May 15. Sister editions of the festival will also run throughout the year, visiting Hartford, Connecticut in October 2019, San Francisco, California in November 2019 and Orlando, Florida in February 2020. The festival’s New York edition will also coincide with the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, on May 17, followed by June’s 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, making the Big Apple the host of this year’s World Pride.

Check out six highlights from Fuerza Fest’s extensive and diverse schedule, below. For tickets, click here.


Fuerza Fest Opening Reception

Kicking the festival off on Wednesday, May 8, Fuerza Fest’s opening reception will feature a panel discussion on the life of Stonewall icon Sylvia Rivera and a ceremony presenting the legendary House of Extravaganza with the organization’s Legacy Award. Rivera was a prominent trans rights activist who played a key role in the Stonewall riots of 1969 and co-founded STAR (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries), an organization aiding homeless LGBTQ youth, drag queens and trans women. On the other hand, the House of Extravaganza is one of the most internationally recognized families to emerge from New York City’s underground ballroom scene, founded in 1982 by Father Hector Extravaganza, who passed away on December 30, 2018.

Fuerza Fest’s opening reception will be held on Wednesday, May 8 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., followed by a screening of the transgender activism documentary Stonewall with a T.


Stonewall with a T

Screening on Fuerza Fest’s opening night, Stonewall with a T is a documentary unpacking the last 20 years of transgender activism in New York City. The film spans the last three years of lobbying and organizing to pass the Gender Expression Non-Discrimanation Act (GENDA), which in January 2019 added gender identity to New York State’s human rights code and hate crime laws as a protected class. Stonewall with a T also features archival footage of trans rights icons Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson, as well as interviews with dozens of activists still fighting to secure basic protections for trans and queer individuals nationwide.

Stonewall with a T screens on Wednesday, May 8 from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m., after the festival’s opening reception.


Buscando A Copi

Uruguayan playwright Federico Roca’s 2008 play, La Posteridad de las Ratas (Buscando A Copi), will bring a strong dose of irreverence to the Fuerza Fest stage. The fictional piece about a rookie reporter interviewing avant-garde Argentine author, playwright, and bon vivant Copi at his deathbed will spark as many laughs as audible gasps over the hour-long runtime. Copi (real name Raúl Damonte Botana) based many of his best-known works like El Baile de las Locas and Las Viejas Trasvestis on surreal, hilarious and grotesque scenarios starring sex workers, drag queens, and fictionalized versions of himself. Tense and outrageous exchanges between both characters will doubtlessly make this a standout of the festival’s theater program.

Buscando A Copi will run after Alejandra Ramos’ Saben A Mar on Thursday, May 9 and Saturday, May 11, starting at 7 p.m..


Antonio López 1970: Sex, Fashion & Disco

The legacy of Puerto Rican designer and fashion illustrator Antonio López has experienced a major renaissance in recent years. A 2016 retrospective at El Museo del Barrio dazzled thousands of visitors over its extended run, while in 2018, James Crump’s documentary, Antonio López 1970: Sex, Fashion & Disco, gave us a rare glimpse into the hedonistic life of the Puerto Rico-born, Bronx-raised artist. The film features interviews with fashion icons, such as Karl Lagerfeld and Grace Jones, and explores the revolutionary nature of López’s street style-influenced designs in the world of 1970s haute couture.

Antonio López 1970: Sex, Fashion & Disco screens Monday, May 13 at 7 p.m.


L & B

Written and directed by Puerto Rican playwright Ricardo Santana, L & B follows two women who meet on the other side of the world, allowing a romance to blossom under the liberating shroud of anonymity. The intimate play is written as an ode to people who dare to live authentically and to the courage of taking such leaps.

L & B will run Friday, May 17 at 7 p.m., and Saturday, May 18 at 2 p.m., before Paloma Pedrero’s La Llamada de Lauren.


Casandro The Exotico!

From form-fitting costumes to colorful, flamboyant masks, Lucha libre has always been an inherently campy sport. So it should come as no surprise that exóticos (genderbending, usually queer luchadores) hold a special place in the hearts of fans. Casandro is perhaps the most famous exótico to ever enter the ring, and this 2018 documentary by French director Marie Losier looks back on the legendary wrestler’s 26-year career, as well as his extensive list of titles and injuries.

Casandro The Exotico! screens Thursday, May 16 at 10 a.m. at the Hispanic Federations’ Headquarters.