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She was accused of sexually abusing minors, but can Mexican popstar Gloria Trevi still be a feminist icon?

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This week Catalina Ruiz-Navarro, a member of the Mexican feminist collective Estereotipas, ripped open an old, cruddy, and ugly scab in the Latin American psyche. She did so by publishing a picture of Alejandra Guzmán and Gloria Trevi, two Mexican popstars who are currently on a joint tour, and adding the following caption: “Together they’re the most feminist and encouraging thing that’s happened this year. Queens, goddesses, humans, everything.”

Trevi, 49, served jail time almost 20 years ago after being accused of child trafficking, among other crimes, so a lot of people are understandably upset about crowning the “Pelo suelto” singer a feminist, even if her song is considered a groundbreaking feminist song

For the uninitiated, there’s a lot of history to unpack here, but let’s start with Alejandra Guzmán, who’s also 49. Ever since she launched her pop-rock career in the late ‘80s, Alejandra has been considered a wildchild. But for all her sexy videos and scandalous, floor-rolling performances, “La Guzmán” has been relatively harmless, is well-liked, and – trivia time – was born from artistic royalty. Her mother, Silvia Pinal, is an accomplished actress, and her father, Enrique Guzmán, used to be the Justin Bieber of the ‘50s in Latin America. I’m bringing up the latter because, sadly, we’re all about lineage in Latin America.

Alejandra Guzmán in the ’80s.

So Alejandra can proudly wear a feminist tiara, if she pleases, and I doubt many would contest her right to do so. Maybe not because she’s overtly radical, but definitely because she’s endured the youth-obsessed, misogynist music industry, and that’s no easy task.

Gloria Trevi, on the other hand, used to be on another level. In the mid-’90s, at the peak of her career, Inside Edition ran a segment on the dazzling regiomontana, calling her “the Mexican Madonna.” But not without caution:

“She may deserve an R rating, because sometimes Gloria makes the real Madonna look shy.”

She was not the Mexican Madonna, she was Gloria Trevi, but it’s easy to see why the American show made the comparison. Back then, both women were considered rebellious, unabashedly sexual, became idols to millions of girls, and were the most-popular popstars within their demographic.

Madonna’s numbers obviously eclipsed Trevi’s, but in Latin America Gloria had little to no competition. Her contemporaries, such as Thalía, Paulina Rubio, and even Alejandra Guzmán, were prissy Catholic schoolgirls when compared to Gloria’s punk rock looks and attitude. Her music didn’t actually sound punk rock, per se, and that can be traced back to Sergio Andrade, her producer, manager, and soon-to-be worst nightmare. Andrade, a middle-aged man with mostly blues and oddball synthpop influences, was in fact a talented songwriter, but he didn’t have his ear on the ground when it came to musical trends.  

None of that mattered much, really, since the Thalías, Paulinas and Alejandras of the world mostly sang about conventional relationships with men. Gloria, on the other hand, screamed about HIV, teenage pregnancy, dirty politics, and the patriarchy. Once on Televisa, Mexico’s most-viewed, most-conservative TV station, Trevi famously got into a tiff with Verónica Castro, back then the most-popular TV host, by calmly defending prostitution. The singer was still a teenager and her politics were, to say the least, extremely liberal for the time and the place.   

So if Alejandra had the right to wear a feminist tiara, in the mid ’90s Gloria made herself the undisputed heir of the feminist crown. That is, until shit hit the fan, and then la más turbada que nunca was revealed to be a fraud, a criminal, or a victim, depending on your personal politics.

In the mid to late ’90s, the Monterrey-native, along with Andrade, her manager-turned-husband, both stood accused of many disturbing charges: child trafficking, molestation, and running a sex ring, among other illicit crimes. Gloria, Sergio, and a harem of underage girls fugitives of the law. In early 2000 they were imprisoned in Brazil, where Trevi became pregnant in an all-female prison. (Christopher McDougall’s Girl Trouble is highly-recommended reading, if care to dig deep into the best rock n’ roll biographies in existence.)

Sergio Andrade & Gloria Trevi.

The underage abductees were handed over to their families and, after the ordeal, they revealed the various abuses they’d suffered at the hands of Andrade. Some of the teenagers, working as Gloria’s backup dancers and singers, accused the superstar of being complicit. Years later, the singer wrote a tell-all book and called her accusers “liars” and “greedy.” Gloria claimed to be just as much as a victim as the rest of her entourage.

While Andrade was left behind, the superstar was eventually extradited to Mexico, acquitted, and released in September of 2004. To the shock, glee, and dismay of many, Trevi managed to rebuild her career, and is still one of the best-selling female popstars in Latin America. Perhaps even more shocking, Sergio Andrade was quietly released from jail in 2007 after also being extradited to Mexico. The Mexican media, which for years had whipped its consumers into a frenzy with constant coverage of case, barely mentioned Andrade’s suspicious release.

This incredible saga happened almost 20 years ago, yet younger generations seem to give little thought to Gloria’s dark ordeal. But, as evidenced by the reactions to Catalina Ruiz-Navarro’s picture, not everybody has forgiven the popstar.

Is Gloria truly beyond redemption? Two arguments have sprung up when it comes to defending – and demonizing – the divisive singer.

The most popular pro-Trevi argument generally boils down to the fact that she herself was a barely a teenager when she was thrown into the wolf’s den. Tamara de Anda, a Twitter personality and self-proclaimed feminist, told Verne the following:

“It’s not like she used to be a human rights activist and suddenly decided, with a clear conscience, to start kidnapping girls. She never had the tools. Like in any abusive relationship, it’s easy to say ‘Why didn’t she get out? Why did she let it happen?’”

But the anti-Gloria camp is not ready to give the could-have-been-the-most-feminist-Mexican-singer-ever a pass. Diana Hoyos, another Twitter user, had a hot take on the matter:

“In a world where women such as Gloria Steinem are still alive, you peddle these pseudo ‘artists’ as feminist icons? One used to manage a child traffick ring, and the other has more oil in her body than a cooking pan from a cheap restaurant. You need to read up, little lady”.

“I get no hope from perfect women. I get hope from fallen, beaten women who find a way to move forward despite their reputation,” said Catalina in a video where she defended her argument. Gloria Trevi retweeted Catalina’s video before expressing her own take:

“A real woman backs up her words, bases herself on facts, and criticisms do not shake her conviction. Ignorance gives certainty to those who criticize us.”

Here’s my personal take: Before she was busted for all sorts of unsavory accusations, Gloria’s music was incredibly positive for a group of highly-repressed women. Spanish-speaking teens from Latin American didn’t always have access to other progressive musicians, such as Madonna, or Bikini Kill. Gloria sung in Spanish, did not come from artistic royalty or money, which made her accessible, and was genuinely creative (She wrote her own lyrics, made her own outfits). Trevi also made it her business to constantly bust conservative balls, which was extremely risky when compared to her counterparts.  

Then she fell, and she fell really hard. Considering Gloria was just a kid when she got into the business, it’s not hard to believe she was genuinely gaslighted. She lived a very distorted reality, and was ultimately too deep in the hole to see any sort of guiding light. Under those conditions, no one can be expected to think or act rationally.

One can’t ignore there were a lot of victims, either. To me, however, one of the most disappointing aspects of Gloria Trevi’s career has to do with her tepid comeback. The Mexican masses essentially awarded her a second chance, which is no small feat for such a conservative country, but Trevi’s new tunes lazily oscillate between generic diva club music, and awkward self-referential power ballads, songs which are not only of character for somebody who used write dark tunes about possessed dolls, but just plain bad. 

But considering the emotional strain Trevi went through, it may be unrealistic to expect her to retain the edginess, nonconformity, and uniqueness she was beloved for. Gloria paid a heavy price for being outspoken, and pulling her old ‘90s antics after being released jail, such as pouring Cokes down her undies and stripping men, her chance for redemption would have been immediately revoked. So Trevi is just a run-of-the-mill popstar now, the kind she used to make fun of, and it’s a little disappointing.

I think it’s fair to say that being a working female musician – especially one who’s Latina, close to her fifties, and is capable of selling out Time Square while only singing in Spanish – can make you highly admired among other people, specifically other women that perhaps have certain career aspirations that don’t involve being stay-at-home baby factories.

Trevi’s incredible predicament won’t be forgotten any time soon, and it shouldn’t be. It’s a sobering reminder that opportunistic assholes are always looking exercise their, to quote Divine, “assholism.” And, sure, there will always be more feminist glory in being Gloria Steinem than Gloria Trevi, but the empowerment la Trevi has given – and continues to give, even in a diluted form – to other women can never be denied.  

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It’s a thankless job, but would you like to rant for Rictus?

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Are you Latino, Latina, or Latinx? If you’re not, it doesn’t matter. Maybe you lived in Latin America, or know Latino culture well. More importantly, do you have a funny, witty, dumb, eye-opening, or virgen María-blessed insight about something? A personal story, a political view, groundbreaking analysis, or dissenting review about a movie, record, city, art show, or something nobody cares about?

Maybe nobody cares about whatever you’re interested in because you haven’t written about it. Share your thoughts with strangers! You may get even some virtual likes on social media, and that’s how people count happiness in 2018, right?

José and I have a lot of fun here at Rictus, but it’s fun to publish contrasting voices. We don’t make any money, so neither will you. This is really just about you loving the written word, as we do.

Some shit to consider:

  • Can be as short as 300 words, or as long as you think you can hold people’s attention with your awesome wordsmithery.
  • It’s a lot more important — to us, anyway — that you’re funny, insightful, or engaging about whateverthefuckyouwriteabout than a being a super professional writer, so don’t be shy.
  • In English, please. We may add a Spanish section later, but, yeah, English werds, for now.
  • You can use a pen name. Maybe you work at some conservative think tank and and don’t want to be found out. That’s fine. Use your superhero name.
  • You should already have a good pitch. What do you know, or have strong opinions about, that others don’t? Are you mad about something you recently saw in the news? Does your aunt drive you crazy? Have you noticed an interesting pattern in penis owners? Are you a media geek? Do you love celebrities, but hate their dumb looks?

Shoot us an email with ideas: rictus.co (@) gmail dot com, or use the contact form, or reach out privately is you follow us on social media.

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Broke, youthful & repressed: Things you’re too dumb to appreciate in your 20s

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Are you trying to get through your 20s gracefully? Then you’ve come to the wrong place — and I don’t mean this website, I mean this planet. But this website too, maybe.

Listen, you will make horrible mistakes during your existence because #youth. But pay attention because, even if you don’t get past your 20s with some grace, you may be able to get by with some dignity.

1) You poor, endearing bastard

Ah, to be young, dumb, and full of cumulative social issues. As a broke twentysomething, you’re usually too self-conscious to realize that your youth, in a strange way, sanctions your destitution. You realize you’re poor — that’s obviously not the issue — but instead of making it your warcry, and finding strength in a nothing-to-lose attitude, you burden yourself attempting to portray the opposite.

Maybe you’re still trying to prove to society — and your parents, most of all — that you’re an independent, responsible, adult-ass person. You really want that vindication, especially if you spent tons of money on getting edumacated. Yet, you’re between a precious little window of time when society is still willing to forgive your poverty, access to influence, and lack of experience.

Ah, but once you reach your 30s? Let’s just say the Eye of Sauron has nothing on people’s judgemental gaze.

There are exceptions, of course, and if you come from money, none of what I just wrote will make sense to you. But in short, youngsters tend to misuse the grace period their youth affords them.

2) Foooreeever young. You’re gonna be, foooreeever dumb.

So you’re a young blood under the impression that your physical and mental machinations will go on forever because you can, like, totally wake up in the middle of the night with tons of ideas and inspiration, even if you got wasted at a party the day before.

And, whatever — you still have a baggie full of coke in your coat, even if it’s 60% baby formula. You can snort it at any point to get an extra kick, but why not save it for the next party? Because your work ethic is just unstoppable, and the thought of physical deterioration seems incredibly foreign.

Little do you know that nature is maniacally cackling behind a crystal ball in a deep lair within your body. It’s waiting to play a cruel joke on your dumbass, and when it’s time — in your 30s — it will begin by sabotaging your stamina.

That’s only the first part of nature’s cruel plan. The second phase is a lot more sinister because, although you’re left with a portion of the physical energy you used to have, a psychological hangup will turn all of your unfinished, half-realized ideas into regrets.

Suddenly, when you’re in the middle of a Netflix ‘n chill session, half-watching the 25th episode of some stupid show you don’t even like, nature will bitingly turn to your formally unstoppable will to say: “Where’s your messiah now?”

Its grim, I know. The point is, if you come to terms with the fact that age will physically slow you down, and you do so when you’re still young, it may push you focus on whatever you think is truly important.

3) Unlike complicated emotional bonds, sex stupid, but fun.

Sex is fun, but incredibly stupid. Stripped of all of the symbolism polite society instills on copulation, either through romcoms, music, books, or coming of age parties (see quinceañeras), the physical act of rubbing genitals with another person is messy and mundane. Conceptually, cooking chilaquiles is a lot more complicated than getting your gross body to secrete fluids.

I hate to go all Sex at Dawn on you, but modern culture has done a number on everybody. Current social taboos still conflate sex with all emotional sensations. A person can be sexually attracted to another while not being intellectually stimulated by them, and that’s fine. But most people still expect every sexual partner to be a perfectly-matched significant other, and that’s dumb.

Very few youngsters internalize a sexually-positive outlook. Their hormones are out of control, just like their clouded, repressed judgement, and too much emotional stock is placed on what could be a fun, pleasing, but ultimately near-meaningless experience — just like cooking chilaquiles.

Deep, rewarding, emotional, or enlightening bonds can be had with just about anyone — your aunt, a garbage man, or even a piece of clothing. You probably can’t have rewarding sex with any of those three — maybe the garbage man, if he’s hot — but you can have good sex with a dumb stranger.

Do it, and don’t feel guilty about it.


 

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