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.
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.)
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.”
— Catalinapordiós (@catalinapordios) November 23, 2017
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.
Andrés Cantor, the most important sportscaster of a generation, liked my Tweet
This past Sunday I logged on to Twitter to see what 45 was up to, and a friend had tweeted a video clip of Andrés Cantor, the Argentine sportscaster, belting an elongated “gooooooool” after Colombia had scored against Poland. I immediately replied with a simple innocuous response acknowledging I grew up listening to him, and his emotion never gets old.
Monday morning I woke up with a notification on my phone: “ANDRES CANTOR liked your reply.” Having worked around celebrities in a previous life, something like this wouldn’t make me giddy, but this was different. I remember Andrés, along with Norberto Longo, announcing the Italia 1990 World Cup matches on Univision.
At the time, Univision was the only broadcaster airing all the matches, so non-Spanish speakers also got to experience Cantor’s signature phrase. He made watching the matches so much more exciting. It wasn’t just his particular enunciation, but his narration, which adds nail-biting suspense, and has a way of scrambling one’s feelings.
He knows his audience very well; just this week, during Mexico vs. Sweden, in the last minute of the match, he began to narrate the results of the match, which allowed Mexico to advance to the next stage. His energy matched those of the stadium, as he announced in Spanish: “Korea takes out the champion (Germany), Korea advances Mexico!”
OH. MY. GOD. How can you not get caught up in the drama?
It’s not the same, but there have been some improvements with soccer matches called in English. Fox’s F1 has the English language rights for the world cup. They had two Latinos with thick accents announce Mexico vs. Sweden, and they added their own flair with dramatic cadences in English. But it’s Andrés Cantor who has laid the foundation for dramatic futbol game calling.
I remember during the 1998 World Cup, when Mexico played Germany in the round of 16, the match was tied 1-1. Pavel Pardo tried to do some fancy footwork against a German player, and Cantor quickly commented to stop it and not to do this against Germany. I was thinking the SAME thing — what an idiot! That match had me on the edge of my seat, and Cantor read my mind. Mexico ended up losing the match and getting eliminated.
I heard Andrés for the first time during the 1990 World Cup, but it was in 1987 that he was hired at Univision to call the matches for the Liga MX. For most, it wasn’t until the 1994 World Cup that Cantor came into the limelight. He was recognized with several awards, including a regional Emmy and a National Career Achievement Emmy, for his work during the tournament. He even made an appearance on the David Letterman show.
From a 1994 interview in the LA TIMES:
He said his ‘Gooooooaalllll!’ call isn’t really a trademark, and not even unique. That’s the style of the announcers he listened to as a youngster in Argentina.
Andrés Cantor is very much the voice of soccer in the USA. He came up a time when there was only one network broadcasting the World Cup, and he called the matches like the announcers from his childhood. Ultimately he’s written the announcers playbook, and many who’ve come after him have been influenced by his style. Yes, Cantor’s booming voice has become an unmistakable trademark, but for me his observations are just as important. He’s always saying what I’m shouting at the screen, and, apparently, liking my tweets.
Tizoc Schwartz co-wrote a short film on the word ‘Chingar’ and has written other stuff you’ve never heard of. He’s a carb enthusiast, and dislikes social media.
Drunkards in the night: A hallway, two keys, and one lasting memory
Last night I met a student from upstate New York. She was drunk and locked out from the apartment across from mine, which she leased through Airbnb. She was given two keys; one unlocked the front door of the building, the other one unlocked her anxiety, frustration, and some other door elsewhere, but not the front door of her leased apartment.
I asked her if she was okay and she said “yes” with plenty of confidence. I entered my apartment only to be distracted by her weeping a few minutes later. I don’t know my neighbor — I mean, I’ve seen him, we wave at each other. But I don’t know his name and definitely don’t have his number because, well, it’s New York. Not having to speak to your neighbors about pleasantries — or at all — is one of the perks of the city.
I walked back to the hallway and asked the woman, who was in her early twenties, at most, if she had my neighbor’s number. In her state, my question barely registered, so instead I asked for her name, and to unlock her cell phone, which she was fumbling with. “Nawn…cie. Here.” She handed me her phone where, coincidentally, a group text was blowing up on the screen.
I got in on that: “This isn’t Nancy, but a stranger who found your drunk friend in a hallway in the LES. Someone should come get her. She’s locked out.” I offered her a glass of water, but instead she bolted inside my apartment, ran directly towards the toilet, and threw up. She figured out the layout of my place almost instantly, which was very surprising considering her altered state.
After handing her a wad of napkins and the glass of water, Nancy crawled towards the living room. “Sorry. You’re so kind, and decent, I think. I’m from Ithaca. That’s not relevant to this situation, but yeah, I’m from Ithaca,” she explained while climbing on top of an office chair (I don’t have real living room furniture).
Her friend, Rachel, texted back: “OMG. I’ll be there in 20 minutes! Please take care of her.” I relayed the information to my sudden guest. “Well, Nancy. I guess Ithaca rolls pretty hard on Monday nights,” I quipped. “Naw. Just me,” she replied, before adding that she’s a “computer science student.” “Is that relevant to this situation?” I asked. “Yes. There’s nothing wrong with computer science, actually, but my dad forced me to study that. I’m not good at it, so I’m always getting wasted.”
Nancy’s struggle was all kinds of endearing, but it wasn’t my place to dish out advice because 1) she didn’t ask for it, and 2) she already knew shit was wrong, but simply decided to deal with it in an unhealthy, self-destructive way, just like most young people. It’s actually an important stepping stone in youth, the kind that simply needs to play out.
Rachel finally showed up, adding: “Thanks for taking care of her. We didn’t think she was this drunk when she left the bar.” Still woozy, Nancy looked in my general direction before she left, and mentioned a parting gift. “It’s next to your toothbrush. Thanks, dude.”
She left a memory — yeah, figuratively, but also literally. A 4 gigabyte Samsung DDR3 RAM laptop memory module.
Nancy’s funny. Nancy’s gonna be alright.