2019 - Ongoing
The crisis has turned Caracas into a hostile, repressive city where daily tasks are nearly impossible. Yet, in the midst of this slow suffocation is a breath of relief: drag. While drag may seem like only a show, something fun but in the end a frivolous 1st world luxury, it is anything but – especially in today’s Caracas. This scene is growing out of an urgent need for escape, especially for LGBTQ citizens. Performers and the public can immerse themselves into the antithesis of what Venezuela has become: vivid, luxurious, free. This project, created over five months, sheds visibility on a community that is overlooked and provides a distinct look into the Venezuelan crisis as it relentlessly continues on.
The LGBTQ+ community in Venezuela have been generally kept out of the large sweeps of social protections promised by the government. Rights such as marriage or adoption have never made it past the discussion stage. And while the government has passed blanked anti-discrimination laws including sexual orientation, due to a worsening national infrastructure it is difficult to know how well this protection helps in practice. Similarly, in 2017, the Office of Identification (SAIME) announced that trans people could request a new identity card reflecting their preferred gender expression, rather than based on biological sex. While this policy change would help the trans community immensely, considering most everyday purchases require showing your national ID card, the wait times and corruption of the office make it painfully long to achieve getting a new ID. For that, it is impossible to see any concrete results since this policy announcement. With the extreme hyperinflation continuing in Venezuela, the government has tried various food programs such as rationing and – most recently – the CLAP boxes providing eight staple foods distributed monthly to families. Since same-sex couples are unrecognized by the state, they are often excluded from receiving this benefit. Additionally, any trans people without new ID’s also have difficulty accessing the regulated or subsidized products. On the flip side, while in the past opposition politicians have announced tangible legislation propositions for the LGBTQ community, with a worsening political polarization that agenda – in the eyes of the public – have been all but forgotten.
With the crisis continuing and this marginalized community feeling its effects more than most, any moment of escape, of joy, of forgetting the day-to-day struggle is welcome. That is what the drag shows in Caracas provide: for artists and audience alike. It is a chance to leave the house, have a drink, feel safe and comfortable, dress larger than life and savor the freedom to express yourself as you please – regardless of what your cedula says.
Creating this space of fantasy doesn’t come at a small cost. This photographic exploration, paired with sections from interviews, shows the glorious glamour, the everyday…all adding up to documentation of the sacrifice it takes to be a drag queen in Caracas. For this group of queens – young, old, gay, bi, trans – as much as they struggle, drag is their only way to deal with the harsh reality of Venezuela today and achieve those moments of blissful, fleeting fantasy.