Maricón Collective is a group of queer Chicano artists who are fighting discrimination through art, music, and the reappropriation of slurs.
As Latinxs, we are known for our colorful traditions, our festive attitude towards life, our resiliency when facing problems, our community's unity, and our openness towards others. Yes, no matter what you're going through, Latinxs will be there for you when you need it, but we can also be quite closed-minded sometimes when it comes to accepting people who are different in any way. As a Mexican, this last point has always disconcerted me. On one hand, we are a solidary country that won’t hesitate to help others, but on the other, we can be the most judgemental people when it comes to ways of life that we're not used to. Hidden under our characteristic sense of humor, there are tons of terms and slurs in our everyday vocabulary to refer to people from other races, social classes, religions, or even sexual orientations.
If we were to list all the slurs people use right now, we would be here forever. Offensive and derogatory words have been used from time immemorial, so is it possible to separate them from their offensive meaning? The other day, I heard someone say that words alone don’t hurt people, it's their intention that does. And you know what? I agree with that to an extent, especially when it comes to historically, socially, and culturally ingrained words. However, this doesn’t mean you can go around saying any slur that comes to your mind, arguing that you don't mean to offend anybody. That’s not how it works because these words carry a very baggage of pain, discrimination, and even racism in some cases. So, how can these words lose their offensive nature?
Browsing around on the internet recently, I came across a collective in the US that’s doing a great job with this. Called the “Maricón Collective,” this group uses what we’ve seen is a highly effective process of reappropriating offensive terms. Maricón is a derogatory word used all over Hispanic countries to refer to gay men, though not for this group. By using a term they’ve been hurt with all their lives, this queer group of Latinxs in the US is reclaiming it as a term of empowerment. Some decades ago, the term queer was used contemptuously, until it was reappropriated as a word of unity and identity, and the Maricón Collective is doing the same thing.
As Simon Tam explains in his article for The New York Times, reappropriating slurs can “provide healing and empowerment. It can weld solidarity within a community, and, perhaps most importantly, it can diminish the power of an oppressor, a dominant group.” By doing so, these words gain a new meaning that gradually detaches itself from the negative load it carried before. Of course, that's easier said than done, but taking the first step is crucial. The particular case of this LGBT+ collective is quite interesting, especially considering the time and place it was created.
Formed in 2014 by Rudy Bley, Carlos Morales, Manuel Paul, and Michael Rodríguez, this group focuses on art and the DJ scene. They all grew up in the same Latinx community and culture where machismo dominated, making it quite hard for them to express themselves openly. They went to queer punk shows together, and soon they realized that they wanted to help others embrace their identity fully. Most of their parties and gatherings take place either at punk venues like the one where they met, or they are organized like your average Latinx family barbecues (which are just big parties).
By embracing both their Latinx roots (especially their Chicano culture) and their sexual identity, they’re fighting against discrimination on two fronts: sexual and racial. Besides sharing art and culture, what they really want to do is to “create a brown space for the people that don’t really have it,” and by doing so, they’re also entering a cultural and artistic scene that excluded them for a long time. The Maricón Collective is a great example of how our identity is shaped by what surrounds us, but that it’s not impossible to reshape it. As Tam said, reappropriation is “a way of seizing control of a slur, turning it on its head and draining its venom.” We can only hope that little by little other communities and groups will join and help to drain all that poison we consume every day.
You can learn more about this amazing collective on their Instagram account: @mariconcollective
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