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Being Drag in San Miguel

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By Karla Ortiz

 

The Colectivo 41 NGO’s mission is to educate young people and adults on issues such as LGBT rights, HIV prevention, and sex education through programs that bring the whole community together. One of the organizations stretegies for doing this is by holding workshops, LGBT films and relevant talks every Tuesday and Thursday. Its most recent talk brought together two characters from the drag scene in San Miguel de Allende to talk to the public.

Drag performance does not just involve putting on some makeup. It is an identity that can empower anyone, a manner of artistic expression through which someone demonstrates their alter ego and thus can be used by anyone to express their artistic side. Getting onstage is when they feel strongest and happiest, many people who do drag say. Performing in a drag show means sharing joy and inviting people to dare to indulge that “wild” side of themselves so that they can share in the performers’ joy.

On the Internet, one can easily find videos showing social experiments in which men or women dress in drag and do a performance in front of their loved ones or other people, then tell the camera how they felt doing it. We usually see a radical change of opinion by the end.

On July 31, Collective 41 hosted a talk on the theme of “Ser Drag en San Miguel” (Being Drag in San Miguel”). The talk highlighted Merlot and Dragabba, two folks who are committed to making this movement more visible in San Miguel and thereby spreading awareness about the reality of dressing in drag, which embraces both male and female performers

There are four main categories of drag performers:

Drag Queen: men who dress as women with exaggerated features.

Drag King: Women who dress as men with exaggerated features.

Bio Queens: women who adopt the style of typical male drag queens and portray a female character.

Bio King: men who adopt the style typical of drag kings and portray a male.

Merlot has dedicated much time to giving performances and participating in drag competitions. The main objective, Merlot says, is to have fun and, with that, to transmit happiness and self-esteem. During the talk, Merlot told attendees about what it’s like doing drag performance here.

In real life, Merlot is Víctor Coronado, a 27-year-old who devotes himself to cooking in his daily life. His approach to makeup and women’s clothing began at a very early age, and, for him, it has been a blessing that his father and mother and his sisters have always been there for him—whether it be in matters of clothing, makeup, or moral support.

He started out as a transvestite. His first dress was made with his mother’s help, and his first steps in makeup were made together with his sisters. The idea of telling his father what he was going through was something he couldn’t even think about until one day some pictures of himself dressed in women’s clothing ended up in his hands. This did cause friction between Víctor and his father, but they were eventually resolved it Since then, the two are more united.

After much time spent adapting his character, Victor’s character “Audrina” was born, his first alter ego as a drag queen. Using this character, Victor began to participate in drag queen contests but found that Audrina was still yet missing something, an essence to the character that was about fighting for her rights and being seen by the world. And so, this is how Merlot was born. Merlot is the drag queen of San Miguel that seeks to reinvent the collective perspectives of the city’s citizens, to plant a seed that will eventually bear the fruits that Collective 41 is seeking—achieving equality in all senses.

Merlot describes women as a “sanctuary.” But although she idolizes women, she thinks that men deserve the same respect and that no one should be considered better than another. Feeling in the middle of two poles gives Merlot the courage to speak for two sexes of which she is very proud.

When we think of drag, the first thing that comes to mind is makeup, heels, sequins, wigs, and much extravagance, but behind every drag performer there is a story, and Victor’s case is no exception. About four years ago, he wrote an essay entitled “A Toxic Illusion,” with which he won the narrative prize at the FELISMA fair. The essay was inspired by a relationship that caused him problems, one in which his partner falsely accused him of participating in a crime. This act by his partner totally destroyed him, he said.

“You fall in love, thinking that he’s someone who’s going to be with you, who’s going to love and take care of you forever,” he said.

But his essay was a vehicle for sharing his experience with the world and allowed him a sigh of relief. He has learned how to channel pain into something good for himself, despite the constant harassment and bullying that he still suffers in the streets. And so, he’s thinking about writing more essays, based on other life experiences.

Throughout his life, he has lost many friendships but also has kept many valuable ones that he gives thanks for, since those friends have in some way supported him in coming out and are a general part of the existence he is now motivated to continue building.

One of his goals is to turn the drag stage into an activist group for diversity. For example, he imagines engaging in activities like going to read stories to children—not as Víctor but as Merlot. He would like to create shows for people at CERESO, which he is sure the inmates would enjoy. He thinks they would support his performances in order to see a little of the world outside.

“Drag performers are no longer the outcasts,” he said. “We are people with work and family. We have to evolve into having a collective harmony, and as Merlot always says, ‘There are no short dreams, only big goals.’”

For more information about Colectivo 41’s upcoming events, visit their social networks.

 

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