Pe­dro Le­mebel

(El Bar Stonewall)

BOMB Magazine - - CONTENTS - Pe­dro Le­mebel Trans­lated from the Span­ish by Mon­tana Ray Pe­dro Le­mebel was a Chilean literary and queer icon. His chron­i­cles and nov­els are char­ac­ter­ized by de­pic­tions of var­i­ous Chilean sub­cul­tures and mor­dant anti- im­pe­ri­al­ist cri­tique. Un­der Pinochet’s

So they in­vite you to Nueva York, all ex­penses paid, to par­tic­i­pate in an event for Stonewall, twenty years af­ter the po­lice brawl star­ring the gay girls who, in 1964, took over a bar in the Vil­lage. So they tell you the story, and you feel obliged to cross your­self at the site of the event. A dark lit­tle bar, shrine of the ho­mo­sex­ual cause, where the sodomite tourism comes to de­posit its flo­ral of­fer­ings. Be­cause there, in the win­dow, they dis­play the faded photos of the hip­pie- dip­pie vet­er­ans who, for I don’t know how many days, re­sisted the law’s ha­rass­ment, the po­lice raid that tried to oust them un­suc­cess­fully. How could you not shed a tear in this gay Lour­des grotto, sa­cred al­tar for thou­sands of visi­tors who take off their Calvin Klein vi­sors to re­spect­fully pray for a few sec­onds while parad­ing past the club. How could you not at least pre­tend to feel a lit­tle sad, if you’re a visi­tor in Nueva York, and they’re putting food on your plate and pay­ing for ev­ery­thing, these mil­i­tant gringas, so saintly and savvy at selling their po­lit­i­cal history. How could you not po­litely feign to lose your com­po­sure be­fore these faces in the black-and-white photos, which could be from an old movie we never saw. These photos of gay he­roes, straight out of Wood­stock, crowned with roses and col­ored rib­bons, in the win­dow of the Bar Stonewall, a bar like any other on the block, like any other in the en­tire Vil­lage, dec­o­rated like a cake in fancy gay at­tire. Be­cause when you get off the sub­way at Christo­pher Street, you find your­self sud­denly among a ton of mus­cles and body­builders in hot pants with waxy bald heads and lit­tle ear­rings, the pairs of men rollerblad­ing hand-in-hand blow by you pre­tend­ing they didn’t see you. And why would they see you, if you’re be­yond ugly, drag­ging your loca mal­nour­ished third­world­ista ass through the world. Why would they give you the time of day with your dropped Chilean jaw in front of this Olym­pus of strong and well- fed

And you walk in a daze through these scenes of the Big World, look­ing at the shops full of sado­masochist fetishes, nails, clamps, screws, nee­dles, and lots of other me­tal junk for tor­tur­ing the skin.

ho­mo­sex­u­als who look as though they might throw up when they look at you, as if to say: we did you a fa­vor, lit­tle in­di­gene, bring­ing you to the cathe­dral of gay pride. And you walk in a daze through these scenes of the Big World, look­ing at the shops full of sado­masochist fetishes, nails, clamps, screws, nee­dles, and lots of other me­tal junk for tor­tur­ing the skin. Ay, how painful. How shock­ing to see the leader’s group on the cor­ner with their vests, mus­taches, leather, com­bat boots, and that fas­cist bru­tal­ity that re­minds you of the gangs of ma­chos who, in Chile, you’d cross the street to avoid, walk­ing tensely, pre­tend­ing to look in the other di­rec­tion. But here in the Vil­lage, in the lit­tle plaza in front of the Bar Stonewall, that mas­cu­line drive that in­cites panic, abounds, and re­duces you to a lit­tle Latin fruit fly trapped in this neigh­bor­hood of blond sex. This sec­tor of Man­hat­tan, Nueva York’s Zona Rosa, where things cost an arm and a leg, is the epi­cen­ter of the tour for ho­mo­sex­u­als with dol­lars who visit the city. Es­pe­cially, on this global hol­i­day, when the is­land of Man­hat­tan is decked out in flags with all the col­ors of the gay rain­bow. Which is re­ally one color: white. Be­cause maybe gay is white. Just go into the Bar Stonewall, where it’s al­ways night, and you’ll see that the pa­trons are over­whelm­ingly white, blond, and vir­ile, like from a saloon in a cow­boy movie. And if by chance, let’s say, there’s a black man and a flam­ing Latina, they’re there so no one gets called un­demo­cratic.

So I didn’t stay long in that his­toric lit­tle bar, a quick look around and you can tell there’s noth­ing there that doesn’t be­long on a golden post­card of the clas­si­cal, mus­cle- bound aes­thetic, the city of Nueva York has other holes where you won’t feel so out of place, dingier bars where the Latin spirit sal­sas its ter­ri­to­rial song.

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