“This is for the women who love women, the men who love men, and all the people in between.”
Before an adoring crowd at Friends & Lovers, Maluca delivered these words before she took the mic once more. Closing out as the last live performer of the Brooklyn Pride afterparty Azucar Papi (a merging of the two parties, Azucar! – A Queer Latin Dance Party and Papi Juice), Maluca had taken us through a frenetic set, bouncing between her iconic merengue-rap-mambo club singles into flashes of her aggressive, melodic yet-to-be-released material.
Azucar Papi had already woven together distinct iterations of QTPOC fierceness: Princess Nokia praised her Puerto Rican roots; she sported some choice knee-high boricua flag-patterned socks as she led the room in a “qué bonita bandera” chant. Rapping her way through “Bikini Weather Corazón en Afrika,” this artist formerly known as Wavy Spice was joined by Club Yes sister and collaborator K Rizz, who almost stole everyone’s thunder in her turquoise lamé assless chaps. Earlier, Carioca bass diva Zuzuka Poderosa amped up the crowd as the first performer of the night, alongside her long-term collaborator Nego Mozambique. In between sets, DJs from all over the musical map kept the crowd dancing: Nenas Rudas (Precolumbian and I$LA), Oscar Nñ, Adam R., and False Witness.
Altogether, the sounds highlighted, celebrated, and complicated queer Latinidad. As photographer Cristobal Guerra described the scene, “You walk in and there’s folks voguing to a sick beat. Or all of a sudden everyone’s dancing to El General, or it’s 3:40 AM and everyone is singing along to a Selena remix. People are actually dancing and sweating and having an amazing time. The go-go dancers are not ripped white guys with pomade on their hair. There might be someone selling burritos or tamales at the party. There’s queers of color from all parts of the country and the world. The looks are the MOST.” Or, as Precolumbian puts it, “it feels like an amazing celebration of fabulous brown bodies.”
How did this scene come together? The answer is through a serious amount of long-term, intentional effort. Both behind the scenes as event producers and on stage as DJs, the individuals involved in creating Azucar Papi have invested several years in creating a nightlife space for self-defined identities and open-format musical selections. It’s hard work creating a safe space to wine yuh waist. Here, we break down how the most exciting thing happening in NYC Latino nightlife came to be.