Remembering Nacho Nava, a Force in Los Angeles’ Queer Nightlife Community

Lead Photo: Photo by Ivan Padilla
Photo by Ivan Padilla
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Nacho Nava, founder of the weekly party Mustache Mondays – which ran for more a decade in downtown Los Angeles – died on Saturday, January 19. With this bare-bones introduction, even a stranger can gauge that Nava was a centrifugal force, a crazy glue that held together a city in which everyone can seem like they are one too many highways away from each other.

In the wake of Nava’s death, many of the musicians, performers, promoters, and chosen family members who found themselves in his orbit are struggling to understand and extend his legacy. His inner circle’s first step – a scholarship and memorial fund – is tangible and could use support. The money raised on their GoFundMe page will go towards causes related to “homelessness, the LGBTQI community, and the progressive arts” – the list’s diversity echoes Nava’s hybrid conception of what makes a community hum. The fundraiser has already surpassed its initial goal of $10,000, but because this money is earmarked for a potential scholarship, more contributions will only help more recipients.

Nava created an entirely unique space for queer Latinxs, for many Los Angeles queer communities exhausted with the oftentimes monochromatic cultural offerings of West Hollywood. With locals who were also somehow outsiders, he led a scene that would stretch Southern California’s 21st century notions of club life — along with Mustache co-founder and resident DJ Josh Peace, Danny Gonzales, Dino Dinco, Total Freedom, Kita, Suga Shay, Asmara, and all the other performers, drag queens, singers, choreographers, and club kids who were irresistibly attracted to Nava’s world.

Photo by Ivan Padilla
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In the words of nightlife writer Marke B. in his longform profile written for Mustache’s 10 year anniversary, “the party embraced the unfettered sensuality of the pre-AIDS bathhouse days and the diasporic sounds of a gay culture that was growing more visible, and politically potent, worldwide.”

Nava’s curatorial genius and love for the outsider made him a potent talent scout. It was at his events that Kelela and Total Freedom built their audiences, where Kingdom and Maluca and the entire crew that came to be known as Fade To Mind found a key, early home. Nava showed LA nightlife that there were options, possibilities, different axes around which to organize big, fun, important scenes.

Many of the city’s cultural linchpins saw him as an inspiration. “I remember Nacho on the dancefloor of one of my early clubs in downtown,” recalls Rudy Bleu García, a fixture in LA’s queer punk scene, the creator of sCUM events, Maricón CollectiveScutter zine, the original producer of RuPaul’s DragCon, and an eventual collaborator and friend of Nava. The two met officially at the first edition of Mustache Mondays in 2007. “I saw him put his all in everything he did and everyone he believed in,” says García. “Always lending a hand or an ear for advice. He was your biggest fan and made sure everyone else would be too.”

Nava took his role as a promoter seriously, and the LA native had a knack for knowing which transplants were key additions to his circle. “Nacho took me under his wing about three and a half years ago when I landed in LA from Mexico,” remembers electro-ranchera-punk artist San Cha, who Nava hired to work at Mustache Mondays in her first months living in Southern California. Eventually, Nava started managing San Cha and they became neighbors and friends. “We would see each other often and girl talk for hours about our dreams and about the changes we needed to make to reach them,” she says. “Nacho became one of my main supporters, and he uplifted me in the most nurturing, selfless, tender, and feminine ways.”

That sense of community extended far past Los Angeles’ geographic boundaries. Via direct message, Mexico City electronic collective NAAFI remembered that Mustache Mondays “represented the first club night or party that we wanted to be a part of [on the West Coast].” The attraction to Mustache’s auditory profile morphed into something deeper when they entered Nava’s orbit. “Nacho was like a father figure for a lot of us in the Latino club community,” the collective writes. “He believed in us from the very beginning and gave us all the opportunities. A true pillar for LA cultural life.”

The group concluded with a statement that will surely resonate in Nacho-loving corners of LA for many parties to come. “La noche le pertenece!”

Donate to the Nacho Nava Legacy and Memorial Fund here.