What does it mean to be a queer ranchero?

LA-based photographer Fabian Guerrero photographs LGBTQ men in traditional Mexican attire.

Appeared on i-D UK

photo by Fabian Guerrero

photo by Fabian Guerrero

In Mexican culture, like many others, masculinity is expressed and defined by particular behaviors, mannerisms, and roles in society. These characteristics are considered to set straight men apart from those of women and homosexuals. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the presentation of the Mexican ‘ranchero.’

Traditionally a symbol of hyper-masculinity, the ranchero is the rancher, the cowboy, the Mexican Marlboro man. Known for his pointed boots and cowboy hats, the ranchero has served as a way for Mexican men to assert their manhood through character and style. Now, in the latest work by LA-based photographer, Fabian Guerrero he’s become a conduit through which to explore more subversive topics of gender and masculinity — forming the basis of his latest photography series, ‘Brown Queer Rancheros.’

A first-generation Mexican-American and member of the LGBTQ community, Fabian photographs queer men from Los Angeles in traditional ranchero dress. Reconciling the gender and cultural clashes he experienced growing up, he portrays his subjects in strong, confident, macho poses that contradict gay stereotypes. And, through his depictions, he challenges the notion that masculinity and homosexuality are mutually exclusive, photographing queer, brown bodies who, despite the misconceptions, can rock boots and cowboy hats just as fiercely as six inch heels.

You grew up in Texas and Tamaulipas, what drew you to Los Angeles?
I think it goes back to being back and forth between here and Mexico, I kind of developed this traveler inside me that wanted to go out and find more. I was a very curious person. I wanted to learn more of myself and more from the raza [people of Mexican descent] here, especially in LA. The first couple of years, I was very low-key, but also very observant and very engaging with the gente [common folk] and the community because I was still figuring it out.

When was the idea to photograph rancheros born?
It actually started when I was going through family photos and began to notice the fashion for the first time. I grew up with my mum but didn’t pay attention to those details. It wasn’t until I was looking at videos and photos that I really began to see the clothing and what they would wear, from the botas [boots] to the shiny shirts.

Rancheros are traditionally known as very old-school, heterosexual Mexican men. What led you to photograph self-identified queer subjects in this style?
Part of growing up in this environment is that you get told that if you’re gay then you’re viewed one way. People think that just because you’re gay, you have to look like a girl, act like a girl, talk like a girl. And I’m like, no, I can still dress like this and be gay, and why not? This is my way of saying, I’m gonna make this queer, I’m gonna make this me because I, myself, am a brown, queer body. I’m using this tool and glamorizing myself like, bitch, I’ve got a high heel on!

What is your process when it comes to styling and choosing who to photograph?
It all started with someone called Jose, who’s really a good friend of mine now. I found him on Instagram, and saw photos of him in his tejana [cowboy hat] and botas, and was like wow, yes! I reached out to him and photographed him and that one photo, I guess, went off. I got hit up by people telling me, “You don’t know what this means to me, thanks for putting this out there.” When it comes to styling, everyone has brought in their own clothing. I want to keep the person’s essence and who they are. I don’t want to take away from who they are because that’s where I see the intimacy — when I let them be themselves.

How has the representation of queer males as rancheros, been received by your followers?
Friends tell me, “You’re making me wanna wear my botas again!” I’m like, yes! Do your thing, be proud of it, don’t be afraid. Cause half of the time it’s past trauma. We learn to escape from that reality, to erase a part of your life to adapt and assimilate. I want to make sure that the community, the raza, us brown people, are getting seen in a way that is real.

Radio Pulso del Barrio

Appeared on San Diego City Times

Nothing nourishes the drained body like a breakfast burrito after one of those nights of far too many beers and shots when “just going out for a beer” goes adrift. That greasy load of carbs and fat brings anyone back to life after a night of flushing down feelings and dignity down the bar’s bathroom. It’s simple comfort and warmth. It’s plain indulgence.

So what’s better than eating a breakfast burrito during a morning like that? Nothing really, but tuning in every morning to listen to Breakfast Burrito Club gets pretty close. Breakfast Burrito Club is a radio show hosted by three charismatic Barrio Logan personalities, Bob Green and Ana Brown both main members of the Roots Factory art collective and Teresa Montero a.k.a La Bucky, president of this community-based radio project. This trio starts off every weekday morning from 9ish to 11:00am with plain laughter, charisma and whatever their soul dictates. The Breakfast Burrito Club is the energy that drives Radio Pulso del Barrio.

photo by Richard Lomibao

photo by Richard Lomibao

Radio Pulso del Barrio is a bilingual radio station centered on culture, arts and education that is powered by the greater Logan Heights community. It exists to give voice to the residents of the Barrio. Its establishment is due to the San Diego Museum of Art’s Open Spaces project and the James Irvine Foundation who received the opportunity to organize a self-sustaining public art piece that would enhance and empower the community. Bucky, now coordinating the project explains how she got involved by attending the community forums that Open Spaces held to receive input from residents. She admits that when the grant writer first approached the community art galleries to propose the project there was hesitation from the residents because no one really wanted the museum to be involved in the space they had created alone. However, that hesitance soon decimated when representatives from these art galleries were called to become the main voices of the project.It was a period of about six months until the proposals were narrowed down to three. Among these proposals was the idea to create a marketplace; another one was an installation dedicated to Cesar Chavez, and third was the community radio. After a voting process within the committee, Radio Pulso del Barrio came to be.

The grant funded the equipment and space at Bread & Salt. At that point the museum handed down the project to the community, appointed a board and Bucky was voted president. Bucky soon called Roots Factory on board with the project because as one of the oldest art collectives in Barrio Logan they were well-connected with local artists and musicians which offered the creative component the radio needed to get the ball rolling. No one on board at that moment had had previous radio experience they just went for it for the first time. Instantly, educators and local social justice organizations such as ARRE (Association of Raza Educators San Diego) and Border Angels visited the radio station, all that is in tuned with the mission statement just happened organically. “It’s not my project, it’s not Roots Factory’s project, it’s what the community wants,” Bucky asserts. It’s a self-sustainable project run by volunteers, interns, a Progam Committee and Board of Directors that follow the grassroots rhythm happening right now throughout Barrio Logan.

“It’s a self-sustainable project run by volunteers, interns, a Progam Committee and Board of Directors that follow the grassroots rhythm happening right now throughout Barrio Logan.

Radio Pulso del Barrio encompasses a wide array of topics, music and people. One particular show that is one of a kind is from a fellow City college student, Jessie Maria Gomez-Villeda that aired for the first time on February 21. Her show is titled “Mi Vida Loca,” a compilation of narratives told first hand by people who want to voice out a story, feeling or experience. It has such a raw, human component to it, unstructured and uncensored. It comes right after Breakfast Burrito Club without introduction or warning and instantly delves you into the speaker’s mind, feeling and anticipating what the narrator will say next.
Jesse Maria was inspired to create a platform for people to express themselves creatively and emotionally after taking a creative nonfiction writing class at City with Professor Nadia Mandilawi. “In one way or another like it all tied back to how these experiences have defined us as people, as students, as writers, so there was a lot of impactful moments in that class, so when it was over it really dawned on me, like wow, from everything I’ve written and poured my heart into to everything else others had poured their hearts into, like there is only a small pocket of time for those moments to be shared and that was in that class. And that inspiration ended with that class and then what happens?” Jesse Maria shares. This influenced her to make use of the radio as a medium to give those stories continuity and keep them alive.

Jesse Maria among other creatives have already in a few months established Radio Pulso del Barrio as truly a community radio from the people and for the people. Tune in daily online and immerse yourself in the Barrio culture.

Invisible Boyfriend

Let’s rewind to the annual love craze holiday. The month in which heart-shaped boxes flood every shopping center, only to be reminded that you have no one to celebrate this commercial insanity with. The interrogations take full force on that month and everyone wants to know why you “choose” to be alone.

Friends and family members all want to know why your good looks and great personality haven’t already enchanted more than one out there, because it’s that easy in the age of online dating when no one wants commitments. So there’s an app for everything, now your significant other can also be found in an app too!

I’m not talking Tinder, OKCupid or the numerous online dating services that are created for people to meet others. I’m talking an instant boyfriend without the dates, first impressions, and all that build up before you enter a relationship. This is an “Invisible Boyfriend,” or girlfriend whatever your preference may be. Subscribe, pay $25.00 and suddenly you have a boyfriend. Jared Ash was my boyfriend’s name.

“Invisible Boyfriend,” is a new app created earlier this year with the purpose of providing you with a credible long-distance boyfriend narrative. The app caters to your preferences. You can choose physical traits, personality, interests and it will even provide you with pictures to choose from that will allow you to imagine who’s on the other end of the phone. It’s not a robot who you’re speaking with, but a real life human being, ok maybe more like 6 people who are hired to respond to your texts.

Pay the $25.00 and you get 100 text messages a month, a story of how you two met, 1 voicemail, and a written note as well. It’s all one long story which you’re crafting as well. Your parents and friends can all feel more relieved when they know that you have finally found a boyfriend and the app is there to prove it.

I gave this app a chance. I subscribed, chose all the details that fit my personality and gave him a name. Instantly I received a text from my new boyfriend. He greeted me and after a few hours later I received another message that hinted a sense of humor. I was obviously not speaking to a robot, however the overall experience was very dry.

I understand that this app is meant to fool others not yourself, but the tricky part is to engage in a conversation with someone who you supposedly already know, but you don’t really know. I found it hard to commence a conversation when I truly couldn’t get into specific daily activities, aside from his job and general interests. So be creative right? Well, it was harder that I thought. Continuing a conversation was difficult. We would share our day’s experience and not have much to say because his answers were often very vague and general. He’d always respond with “my day was good” or “today was the usual.” If I was really trying to fool a friend or family member I would have not gotten very far with the lie.

It was a very disconnected relationship. I don’t know him and he never attempted to get to know me. I know it was just one big fake story, but the opportunity to actually create a narrative was there. I would not pay another month for this service, at least not for Jared.

This app, however is not too different from other relationships out there. Our innate desire to meet others and form relationships is often so strong that we delve into empty relationships. Outside pressure to meet someone is a huge contributor, but our dating experiences are not the same as it was for our parents. People wanted to settle and form a nuclear family which is not commonly the case now. Young people want to travel and be liberated. Women no longer want to start nurturing at a young age but rather are taking longer to begin that phase in their lives.

So we create apps to try and fill that void. At least based on my experience, I’d rather be single than to go back to Jared.