A beige tejana sits atop Antonio Rodriguez’s freshly dyed, icy blond, buzzed hair. It’s the ultimate piece to his look.
He’s sporting a silver chain necklace, a barely unbuttoned, flower-printed shirt and white, slim-fitted pants. A brown leather-based belt wraps round his waist with a shiny buckle; his black boots gleam from polish.
“I don’t care should you can inform if my type is simply too masculine or female,” says Rodriguez as he adjusts his tejana, preparing for an evening out with associates. “My pants are tight, the boots are pointy. I’m a vaquero of these two identities.”
Vaqueros, or cowboys, signify the perfect tough, hard-working man who’s synonymous with energy and masculinity in Mexican tradition. Tejana-wearing males have embraced their so-called paisa subculture within the U.S. regardless of usually being ridiculed for his or her type by U.S.-born Mexican People.
To be a queer vaquero is to be unapologetic about who you’re; it’s a radical act. For Rodriguez, it’s greater than a glance. It’s his life-style, one which exhibits he’s pleased with each who he’s and the place he comes from.
Throughout the week Rodriguez works as a hairstylist and make-up artist, however year-round he’s a vaquero. And on Sunday nights, there’s one place he goes: Membership Tempo.
The Hollywood membership is one in every of L.A.’s few remaining Latino homosexual bars, and the one one which caters to the queer vaquero neighborhood. Membership Tempo might not have the mainstream recognition of homosexual golf equipment in West Hollywood, however its historical past runs deep. The 2-story bar has been round for the reason that early Nineties and serves as a house for a neighborhood eager for connection. West Hollywood doesn’t have the cultural outlet that Rodriguez and different queer vaqueros are on the lookout for, and the straight paisa bars sometimes present in South L.A. or the Eastside will not be welcoming, both.
“To be homosexual and vaquero — there’s quite a lot of criticism that comes with that, even from our personal native nation [because of homophobia]. So Tempo is that this small place for us to be ourselves as a result of exterior of that we’re completely different individuals,” says Rodriguez as he rolls his white pants over his shin-high boots.
Initially from the Mexican state of Guerrero, Rodriguez has been going to Membership Tempo since he arrived within the U.S. 15 years in the past. He’s just lately began capturing a few of his vaquero outings on the membership on TikTok. It’s a method for him to showcase his numerous tejanas and appears to the world.
Rodriguez takes a remaining look within the mirror as his associates Dario Clayton and Avery Gutierrez arrive at his South L.A. house. Calibre 50’s “Corrido de Juanito” performs on the TV, a sorrowful track wealthy with accordion about not having the ability to return to Mexico however nonetheless sporting a tejana and botas within the U.S. Rodriguez and Gutierrez clink their cans of Mike’s Laborious Lemonade as Clayton prepares to drive the trio to Hollywood.
It’s just a little earlier than 9 p.m. when the group arrives at 5520 Santa Monica Blvd. Membership Tempo’s entrance car parking zone is stuffed with stacks of hay and purple, white and inexperienced balloons. The trio can hear the dwell banda music for this tardeada, a social dance that’s historically held on Sunday afternoons and lasts till 3 a.m., as they every pay the $13 cowl cost and undergo safety.
The primary cease is the bar. Rodriguez buys his associates a spherical of tequila pictures. The band performs norteños, a style of Mexican regional music that features bass guitar, bajo sexto, drums and generally saxophone. The frequency and rhythm of accordion fill the intimate dance ground.
All eyes are on a pair of vaqueros locked arm in arm as they kick the ground with their boots in time with the upbeat track “La Yaquesita.” Historically, women and men dance to norteño and banda music in pairs. Males take the lead and girls observe. Nevertheless, custom doesn’t matter at Membership Tempo, as males dance with males and anybody can take the lead. The dance ground grows crowded as extra guys present up in tejanas.
James Ventura, though not wearing a tejana or boots, says he feels a private connection to the membership. The 27-year-old, sporting a black button-up and darkish pants, grew up simply down the road.
He remembers recognizing vaqueros lining up exterior when he was a child. Now, as an grownup, Membership Tempo lets him faucet into his queer Mexican identification. Ventura stands by the dance ground as pairs of vaqueros dance shut collectively.
Rodriguez is welcomed by acquainted faces as he makes his method upstairs along with his associates. “I prefer to say hello to everyone as a result of I’ve identified them for a very long time. Each Sunday, it’s the identical individuals,” says Rodriguez as he embraces and chats with fellow vaqueros.
One among them is Luis Mora. Rodriguez and Mora labored collectively just lately as extras on an upcoming brief movie referred to as “El Paisa.” Written and directed by Daniel Eduvijes Carrera, the movie follows an L.A. homosexual vaquero romance. The 2 associates have been scouted by Carrera at Membership Tempo.
Mora is sporting a white tejana with a full face of make-up, together with shimmering, smoky eyes and lengthy eyelashes. He wears a glowing jacket and a silver stud in his left ear; diamonds dangle on his proper. He holds a shiny silver clutch as he drinks a Modelo.
“They [other vaqueros] are going to criticize me and query me as to why I look this fashion. To take off my tejana, shave my beard, that solely actual males could be vaqueros. However that is my type,” Mora says to Rodriguez as he takes a sip from his beer.
“I find it irresistible, amiga,” Rodriguez responds.
It’s now 10:45 p.m. and the group of 4 make their option to the upstairs dance ground, which performs Latin pop, reggaeton and cumbia. Bar supervisor Miguel Vallejo palms them Modelos with a cheers. They break from dancing as a drag queen takes the stage, cracking jokes in Spanish. The room fills with laughter.
It’s not lengthy earlier than Rodriguez gestures to his associates to go to the patio. Vaqueros are lounging exterior, sitting round and speaking. A vendor sells aguas frescas, Takis and different Mexican snacks. As midnight approaches, Rodriguez takes a deep breath of recent air. He appears to be like round with a refined smile.
“That is the one place I can come to and dance to banda, cumbias or no matter and for one evening of the week, my world is the music. I don’t have to vary.”
His associates cheers to that with their Modelos and make their method inside to bop as soon as extra.