One time at Colombian lesbian band camp: Blogotá Week 4

Toque Lesbico and the Countdown to Bogotá Pride

Last week I went to my first rehearsal for Toque Lesbico, a lesbian drumming group that marches every year in the

Toque Lesbico.

Bogotá Pride parade.  Here is the website if you’re curious about what they look and sound like: The ED of my organization participates and thought it would be cool if I played my trumpet with the group.  There were a few challenges: getting a trumpet, finding music to play, understanding what the hell they were saying during rehearsals.  So far, it’s been tough but I’m glad I’m doing it.  I was able to borrow a trumpet from the guy who used to live in my room, and I’ve been watching lots of YouTube videos and transcribing the music so I can have something to play to the drumming.  Much like the variety of fruit here, there are lots of musical styles that I had never heard of before: Mapale, Bullerengue, SanJuanero and then there’s the Cumbia, Salsa, Merengue which we all know and love.  Mapale, for example, is an AfroColombian/Caribbean style that includes some haunting wailing which I try to mimic on my trumpet as a lead-in to the drumming.  If you’re interested, here’s what MAPALE sounds like:

We had our last rehearsal tonight before the parade on Sunday.  It got kind of intense and I was pretty nervous because I only had a few minutes of borrowed trumpet time to try to figure out how to play these musical styles.  I try to make the group understand that I can’t just improvise and make up some badass melody on the spot, but I’m not sure they all get that.  Anyway, my night took a turn for the better when someone started passing around a bottle of aguardiente (the pisco/vodka/cheap liquor of Colombia) and then I loosened up a bit and had more fun.  They seem to be digging the addition of the trumpet sound — I do a lead-in to several songs and there are some parts where the drums get quiet and I play a solo.  Needless to say, I’ve got a lot of practicing to do before Sunday!

Penis Garden: Villa de Leyva

Fertility, anyone?

I took a solo trip to Villa de Levya this past weekend, a small Spanish colonial town in the department of Boyocá about four hours outside of Bogotá.  The town was beautiful (thanks, conquistadores?!) and super relaxing.  I was ambitious during the day and ended up wandering four hours through the desert (felt like 40 days and 40 nights) to see the sights just outside the town.  If I could do it over again I definitely would have rented a bike and put on sunblock on to avoid the major farmer’s tan I got.  I asked every person on the way if I was going the right direction and they assured me that whatever I was looking for was just down the road… turns it it was just really freaking far down the road.  When I wasn’t afraid I was lost and going to have to start drinking out of a cactus, it was nice.  And though it wasn’t totally picturesque, there were some nice views of the valley.  Stop 1 on the desert tour: Observatorio Muisca (AKA the stone penis garden).  The Muisca were the indigenous peeps of the region (roughly between 300 BCE and 1500 CE), and they left behind a bunch of stone phalluses, some of which are lined up east to west and in some way correspond with the solstices, and the others are spread around and represent fertility.  The stone phalluses were impressive, but I did giggle at the thought of a Muisca person toiling in the sun trying to get the crease in the penis head juuust right — they were sticklers for detail.  The other sights were: a giant fossil of a kronosaurus (marine dinosaur alligator) which was discovered in 1977 which they literally built a museum around (where they dug it up); and the blue wells (pozos azules) which were three bright blue lakes in the middle of nowhere, (kind of pretty but that’s Villa de Leyva's plaza - with one well in the middle that the townspeople used to get water for 400 years. Wowzers!about it). Best part was eating some amazing meals and enjoying the plaza (biggest in Latin America, lest you question its importance).  Also, there was a thunder and lightning storm which caused the whole town a blackout and caused me a slight panic attack — shocking, I know. Rain or shine, I definitely want to go back there.

Police Abuse of LGBT People

The latest research I’m doing at my internship is for a report Colombia Diversa is putting together on police abuse of LGBT people in the country.  This is a big problem, especially for transgender people.  A lawyer at the office told me that police officers will beat transgender women on their breast implants, crack bottles over their head, or pick them up and drive them to the middle of nowhere and leave them there.  Also, transgender people are often arrested for prostitution even if they aren’t prostitutes.  There is a lot of similarity to what happens here and in the US — transgender people (particularly trans people of color) are arbitrarily arrested (“walking while trans”), and physically

Shelcy Sanchez, a transgender former sex worker who ran for Congress in 2010.

and verbally abused by the police.  Some of the mainstream LGBT rights groups tend to stay away from these issues, since there’s a fear of giving LGBT people a bad name (prostitutes/ criminals) and jeopardizing the movement.  These are super complicated issues, and definitely hard to message to the general public, but so urgent and important to prioritize.  LGBT youth and transgender people of color are disproportionately criminalized under archaic and nonsensical public order/crimes of nature laws, for example, or even without any justification.  While gay marriage marches forward, this systemic tragic violation of human rights goes undiscussed.  I hope to be able to do more work on this issue with Colombia Diversa and hopefully hold an event at SIPA in the fall on the criminalization of LGBT people of color.  Stay tuned.


3 responses to “One time at Colombian lesbian band camp: Blogotá Week 4”

  1. Hilary says :

    Hey Kristin,

    I just figured out how to leave a comment because I’m awful with technology. Anyway, your blog is amazing and keeps me laughing when times at my Tajik medical clinic are depressing, which is basically everyday. Keep it up!


  2. Sophie says :

    PLEASE post a video of you guys playing in the parade! I think i can safely say that is somehing we would all love to see. Also a picture of you running amongst the penis statues would be much appreciated as well. Gracias. xo

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