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Behind the Parties & Drag Shows that LGBTQIA Latines Call Home

In a society that prioritizes all things straight and Anglo, any prideful gathering of LGBTQIA+ Latines is a beautiful revolution in and of itself. 
Latines make up a diverse spectrum of cultures and identities, like gender expression and sexual orientation, but sometimes a monolithic view of how we should present prevails. That’s when people, particularly queer folks, can feel excluded. Thankfully, finding community for LGBTQIA+ Latines is becoming a bit easier across the United States. Often born of a shared mission, purpose, or specific interests, drag houses and queer parties are providing sanctuary, belonging, opportunities, and joy for queer Latines.
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The following five groups based throughout the U.S. and Puerto Rico show how chosen families come in myriad forms and how houses join people of vastly different circumstances for all kinds of purposes. The throughline uniting them all, of course, is complete acceptance for each member — plus a whole lot of love and belonging.

House of No. 5 in New York City, New York

Janelle No. 5, born in New York and of Puerto Rican and Dominican heritage, never wanted drag children. However, today the seasoned drag queen is mother to three: Beau Jangless, Mo’Riah, and Elle LC. “And I regret every second of it,” she laughs.
She’s joking, of course, but it’s true that Janelle, daughter of RuPaul’s Drag Race alum Kandy Muse, never intended to form a house. 
It was when she met Elle LC, a North Carolina transplant new to New York, that things changed. “People would come up to me and be like, ‘oh my God, this girl really, really looks like you,’” Janelle recalls. “I saw a lot of myself in her, especially when I was first starting drag.” They clicked immediately, and Janelle asked Elle LC to be her daughter. (Elle LC said yes, obviously.) 
Janelle gained another daughter in Beau Jangless, who hails from Puerto Rico. Beau had mostly been hosting, rather than performing, before Janelle started booking her regularly. “The it factor was there,” Janelle says. “I saw a lot of potential in her.” 
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Mo'Riah joined, in part, because of Janelle’s Are You The Next Diva?, a competition held while Covid-19 restrictions allowed for events at reduced capacity. Later, watching Beau and Mo'Riah interact at events, Janelle saw a natural chemistry between them. “I was like, ‘oh my God, I think I’m pregnant again,’” Janelle laughs. 

Like any other family, it’s not this perfect painting. We bicker and argue like any other family. That’s always going to happen. But I feel like that’s what makes it an authentic, genuine family.

Janelle No. 5
The relationship between them, everyone agrees, is beyond transactional; House of No. 5 doesn’t exist solely for the purpose of shared shows. They’ve developed a trust among them that’s hard to find. 
“When the girls are around, I feel like I can let my guard down,” Beau says. “The way that Janelle has set it up is very, like, a safe space. No matter how much you may disagree, she won’t shut you down or not listen to you, just because she doesn’t agree. She makes us feel safe enough to speak back and let her know how we feel about anything.” 
“We’ve all sat together, some of us have cried together. ” Janelle adds. “ It’s been a lot. That trust is definitely there.” 
Of course, Janelle’s career savvy is a major benefit to her daughters. “It’s good to have someone that knows how to navigate their way in this career,” Beau says. “We’re all over here trying to make it in the same way that Janelle made a stamp for herself in the city.” 
The family mentality, as Janelle describes it, is what makes a house a home. They’ve got each other’s backs, always, whether sharing bookings, giving advice, or putting up a unified front in defense of any member.
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“Like any other family, it’s not this perfect painting. We bicker and argue like any other family,” Janelle says. “That’s always going to happen. But I feel like that’s what makes it an authentic, genuine family.” 

House of Oddity in Orlando, Florida

Before they were Haus of Oddity, they were roommates — and before ever stepping onstage, the trio held house shows. 
“I look back at those nights now that we’re getting booked and I’m like, ‘wow, we’ve come such a long way,’” says Joshua, who performs as Beatrixxx Oddity. “We made it cute,” Davi Oddity adds. “We put up a little curtain. We had a little seating area.” 
It was homespun fun, but those house shows late last year served for all three as a bridge into Orlando nightlife. They honed their makeup skills and developed their personas, which, as the trio tells it, include characteristics like spooky-ooky, twitchy-itchy, genderfuckery, and someone who’s sultry but can also tell you when you’ll die. Most importantly, though, they nurtured a bond that’s now the backbone of Haus of Oddity.
“We are the freaks of Orlando, and we're fucking proud of it,” says Joshua. 

We are the freaks of Orlando, and we’re fucking proud of it.

joshua (aka Beatrixxx Oddity)
But early in Joshua’s start as Beatrixxx, he left many shows in tears, feeling he was treated differently from more traditional drag performers. “I was worried about what people thought way too much. And it started fucking with my mental health,” he says. 
Today they share a thicker skin. They demand respect and all agree that they’re finally getting it. “We just have to be there for each other,” Joshua says. “That’s what’s important about a house. It’s sticking through the hard times, sticking through everything. I think we’re doing a good job so far.” 
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This Halloween, Angel will properly debut as Whoracle at Freakshow, a Halloween-themed show organized alongside Succubus Sisters, another Orlando house. “I was kind of skeptical about how I wanted to start, but I’m excited, honestly,” Angel says. “I’ve been waiting for this.” 

Los MENtirosos in San Antonio, Texas

Nightlife gigs for drag kings in San Antonio barely existed when Los MENtirosos started out, and when the all-king troupe did land jobs, there were plenty of queens who didn’t respect their pronouns.
“There just wasn’t space for us there,” says founding member Gio, aka SirGio. Rather than continuing to push to be included on the queer nightlife strip in their city, they turned instead to community spaces. There, they were welcomed. 
Activism is at the core of Los MENtirosos’ ethos. They are a group of dragtivists who used their exclusion from LGBTQIA+ clubs to fuel their community work and to create performance opportunities for themselves. 
In the decade before Los MENtirosos debuted, Gio had founded Zombie Bazaar Panza Fusion, a dance troupe of AFAB (assigned female at birth) performers where belly dancing, folklorico, polka, cumbia, and theatrics converge. At some point, donning a curly mustache became a recurring motif, and eventually a member suggested doing a drag show. That’s when an offshoot emerged — the ZomBois — which ultimately became Los MENtirosos. 
Altogether, there’s about 10 members of the house, ranging in age from early 20s to late 40s. But at the core of Los MENtirosos are its founders: Gio (SirGio), Jessica (Gacho Marx), and Barbie (Pancho Panza). Watching them live, there’s a theatrical element — and an educational one. 
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I take off my shirt, and I have a binder, and I’m dancing with my panza out. I just really love that. My life is better because of drag, because of Los MENtirosos, and because of building community.

Barbie (aka Pancho Panza)
Los MENtirosos also hosts a bilingual drag king story time and has raised funds for Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement, Planned Parenthood, and Lilith Fund, among other orgs. They also performed at “a hardcore Catholic university” on Transgender Day of Remberance last year — and no statues of santos were broken by their presence, Gacho jokes. 
Barbie says Zombie Bazaar and later Los MENtirosos have been a route to self-love. “I’m able to call myself fat and be proud of it,” they say. “I’m fat, I’m nonbinary, I’m cute — I’m all these things.” Gio’s confident example helped usher in this acceptance, they add. And drag helped Barbie explore their gender, too: “I was able to accept that I’m non-binary. Gio and Jess were the first people I told about my pronouns and my identity. From day one, they’ve always been supportive.” 
Through Pancho Panza, they preach fat liberation. “I take off my shirt, and I have a binder, and I’m dancing with my panza out. I just really love that,” Barbie says. “My life is better because of drag, because of Los MENtirosos, and because of building community.” 
“It really is about being able to build community,” Jessica, the emcee who hypes crowds but also lays down the house rules and conveys the importance of boundaries, says. “And educating people.”

El Club de lxs Perras in San Juan, Puerto Rico

Finding community through dance lessons isn’t a guarantee, but in San Juan, Puerto Rico, one weekly class has cultivated exactly that. 
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El Club de lxs Perras began as a weekly gathering where folks across the gender spectrum, but especially femmes, are instructed in movement by founder Rayze Michelle. Perreo, twerk, dominating heels, erotic poetry, sensual painting, gender exploration, role play, and storytelling through dance have all been part of the programming, which is sometimes led by members, and always aimed at empowering everyone present.
For the club’s one-year anniversary, a showcase was held. That led to more shows and, just recently, a spinoff: House of Perras. The new house was organized by several club members participating in the archipelago’s thriving, ever-growing ballroom scene. 
Nael, a member since last October who’s also part of the House, found genuine community in both groups. “We’re here to heal,” Nael says. “To find a space where we can empower ourselves, to show our authentic selves.” 

We’re here to heal, to find a space where we can empower ourselves, to show our authentic selves.

Nael
Fellow Perra Andru echoes the sentiment. “It feels like a family,” she says. “What is practiced in that space comes from love and authenticity. That’s what’s important: being comfortable, all of us together.” 
Some came to the group out of curiosity, like Nx, but el Club quickly became a family for her. “I talk to them every day, and I admire them all,” she says. (Nx, by the way, earned a category win at her very first ball earlier this year.) 
Steph has been with el Club since almost its very start, and it has rekindled her love for dance that was stamped out in her childhood by teachers who treated her poorly. “I think there’s magic here in el Club,” she says. “There’s magic in these people and the connections we’ve made.” 
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Omy, one of the latest to join, notes how important it is for them that el Club is composed of “so many different bodies and artists of all colors.” They found safety, the assurance that everyone would accept them as they are, with open arms. “The universe gave me this opportunity,” Omy says. “And I’m never going to let it go.” 

La Choloteca in Atlanta, Georgia

Atlanta-based queer Latine party La Choloteca has seen plenty growing pains since its 2016 launch, but now its reach and impact are at a peak high. Yet time and again, Josephine Figueroa, the last remaining member of the founding collective, has refused to quit. 
“La Choloteca is the reason I get up in the morning,” Figueroa, aka DJ La Superior, says. 
There were decision-making clashes, plus the perpetual weight of the work required in nightlife organizing, microaggressions from venue owners and, as always, the issue of funding.
Still, Figueroa never gave up on La Choloteca. She needs the space as much as the community that’s been cultivated because of it.
Growing up, Figueroa, the daughter of Peruvian parents, struggled with her own identity. She didn’t know anyone else who shared her heritage, and was maliciously mislabeled by peers, and even started to mislabel herself in attempts to fit in at school. Finally, at 15, she and her family visited Peru, where she was welcomed and accepted. That validating experience stuck with her; Figueroa carries it into the work she does today. 

La Choloteca is the reason I get up in the morning.

Josephine Figueroa (AKA DJ La Superior)
La Choloteca celebrates the vast spectrum of Latine identities and cultures, and the shared joy of music and dancing together empowers folks to embrace their own identities. Reggaeton and perreo are obviously blasted by Latine DJs at many Choloteca parties, but there’s also alternative rock and punk at Desmadre, plus Beijo Brasil, created to elevate Brazilian, Portuguese-language music (and food, too). 
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It’s this inclusivity that made La Choloteca a welcoming space for Geexella, who moved to Atlanta last November from Jacksonville, Florida. They’d started their own party, Duval Folx, in 2018, with the examples of La Choloteca and Papi Juice (NYC) in mind. “We needed a queer space, an accessible space,” they say. “We needed to come together to feel joy with each other.” Through Duval Folx, Geexella raised funds for community members’ gender affirmation needs, sent an activist collective to a California conference, and elevated the stories of people killed by police violence. 
Geexella maintains ties to Jacksonville (Duval Folx is only on hiatus), but soon after moving to Atlanta, they teamed up with Figueroa. 
“After my first Choloteca DJ gig, I cried so much, because I was like, ‘this is what I wanted: to be Black and Mexican in a space and not feel like I have to choose,’” Geexella says. “I have felt nothing but love, nothing but acceptance and warmth.” 
That caliber of community has always been the goal. La Choloteca is far more than just a party. 

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