Warning: This article contains subliminal messages which may alter your sexual orientation and/or gender identity. It features songs full of indirectas and double-entendres that hint at secret loves misunderstood by society. There are songs that intentionally avoid gendered pronouns and others that were written by men but performed by women then covered by men. Latin American music has been a fertile milpa from which to harvest complex messages about love and sexuality. At times these tracks outwardly proclaim their gay roots, becoming anthemic. Other times, tracks are more open to interpretation and we’ve projected our queer experiences onto them. However they come to be part of the queer Latin music canon, they are ours. Here’s a sampling for your Pride Weekend pleasure.
Fangoria – “Supertravesti” [ESP]
Fangoria consists of Alaska & Nacho Canut, ex-members of Alaska & Dinaramia, icons of La Movida Madrileña and the band behind Latin America’s biggest gay anthem, “A quien le importa.” Alaska and Canut formed Fangoria in 1989 when they decided to pursue a more electronic sound. The song is about a superhuman transvestite who lands in Las Vegas and tries to convince their earthling lover to go back to space with them. The song was written by Alaska’s husband, Mario Vaquerizo, and originally performed by his band, Las Nancys Rubias.
Café Tacuba – “El baile y el salon” [MEX]
Off the album Re released in 1994, this is a disco-infused pop track that pays homage to gay clubs and the carnal interactions that happen on the dance floor. Known more for it’s catchy “Pa, pa, pa-pa, eh-oh, eh-oh” often sung before concerts as a way of beckoning the band onto the stage, the key “tell” in this song is the last few lines: “Y así bailando quiero que me hagas el amor, de hombre a hombre—voulez-vous coucher avec moi?” The video’s got some awesome footage of their live shows as well.
Los Sultanes – “Dicelo Que Lo Quiero” [ARG]
This cumbia was released in 1998 as part of their full-length album Zona Rosa, which also features “El Chupete,” another jomo track. Los Sultanes are decadent partiers; their main interest is that their audiences have a great time. When asked if all the band members were gay, lead singer Topo Kazmer said, “Some are and some pretend to be.” A great Pride Weekend dance track is their cover of the club hit “Dragostea Din Tei,” titled “Marica tu.”
Los Embajadores del Vallenato – “Se le moja la canoa” [COL]
I was straight when I first heard this song and after so many listens, the inevitable occurred—it’s one of my favorites. Los Embajadores are known for their playfully salacious lyrics, and like most vallenatos, this one tells a story. Released in 1995 it’s about a very masculine man who takes to sitting on the laps of his male friends when he gets drunk. Though “se le moja la canoa” is considered a vulgar way of saying someone is gay, what I appreciate about this track is the way it plays with gender perceptions and is ultimately an encouragement to be yourself.
Glup! – “Asi es la vida” [CHI]
From the now-defunct band, Glup!, this track features a web of interconnected love stories and open relationships, and encourages us to be open-minded even under the most challenging of circumstances. It was released in 2001 off of their second album, Welcome Polinesia, which is well worth the listen in its entirety. Also take a listen to ex-Glup! frontman Koko Stambuks’ “Chicas y chicos,” a Latin step-sister to Blur’s Girls & Boys, a welcome comparison for an artist who is open about his appreciation of Brit pop.
Soda Stereo – “Mi novia tiene biceps” [ARG]
This is the last track in the band’s 1984 debut album, an ode to a very masculine and muscular girlfriend– so muscular that when “bailando apretados, me siento asfixiado.” In a similar vein, check out “Una Mujer de Bandera” by the Spanish band Los Hombres G. The video features some interesting S/M ideas involving an iron.
Paquita la del Barrio – “Si yo fuera varon” [MEX]
Mexico’s most heterosexual woman inadvertently (or not) came up with a list of recommendations for male-identified women. Though, as it’s typical of most Paquita songs, this track is really meant to illustrate men’s ineptitude and general uselessness, one can’t help but make the next logical Sapphic leap.
Chavela Vargas – “Macorina” [CR/MX]
La Macorina was Cuba’s first female chauffeur and first woman to have a driver’s license at the turn of the 19th century. There is much lore surrounding her. It’s said that her incredible beauty took her from her simple origins to become a sought after courtesan among Havana’s upper crust. The song’s lyrics are a poem by Alfonso Camin, which was put to music by the indelible Chavela. It describes a night of magical passion between two lovers and the subsequent lingering awe:
Después del amanecer
que mis brazos te lleva
y yo sin saber que hacer
de aquel olor a mujer
a mango y caña nueva
con que me llevaste al son
caliente de aquel danzón.
Gloria Trevi – “Todos Me Miran,” Selena – “Amor Prohibido,” Willie Colón – “El Gran Varon,” Camilo Sesto – “Piel de Ángel,” OBK – “El Cielo No Entiende,” Sandra Mihanovich – “Soy Lo Que Soy,” Mecano – “Mujer Contra Mujer,” Laura Pausini – “Es un Cuarto Casi Rosa,” Raphael – “Que Sabe Nadie,” Ana Gabriel – “Simplemente Amigos,” Miguel Bose – “Amante Bandido,” Chenoa – “El Sol, La Noche, La Luna,” Mago de Oz – “El Que Quiera Entender Que Entienda,” Pastora – “La Vida Moderna,” Chayito Valdez – “Besos y Copas,” Los Hermanos Pinzones.