Downtown Market, the LGBTQ discotheque

In Peru “Vale Todo Downtown” was the name of the biggest LGBTQ discotheque. But it was also the name of a family, a second home for a large number of people in the Peruvian LGBTQ community. So when the Covid-19 pandemic struck the country it’s owners decided to shift the business from nightclub to “Downtown Market” in order to keep their workers, specially the artists, and continue being together as a family.

Once two of the most recognized drag queens of the ballroom, Andrés Mejía and Diego Quispe have discovered new work positions to contribute to the community.

Andrés (a.k.a Uriel The Drag) works as a grocery store employee. He restocks shelves and welcomes customers but he finds more pleasure in guiding clients along the history of the place and describing them how he works his make up and wardrobe. “I love to make them realize that what we do is a form of art”, he expresses. It is also a way to share a better understanding about the drag queen artists: “We are showing them that we can work on any field just as any other person”. Unlike the days of big stages and neon lights now his audience is wider as the market attracts both LGBTQ and heterosexuals alike. “The mart is a fun way to shop groceries for your home”, he remarks.

For the LGBTQ community being part of something is a very important issue. Diego Quispe (a.k.a Shamcey La Vie) is the star of a live online party shared through social media. It is a way to keep alive the spirit of the discotheque while obeying the health protocols and the social distancing. Diego enjoys working on his make up more than anything in the world. A former make up professor he defines his work as a way to perfect his own self through change. He transmits the party from the living room of his apartment and uses a basic set decoration borrowed from the old nightclub. The virtual parties have been a success because they can gather larger crowds and in a safe environment: people dance from their kitchens, bedrooms and living rooms; they take screenshots and collide in chat rooms. For them to know that they are connected with hundreds of people at the same time is more than a party, it is a statement that life can go on.

Story & Images by Paco Chuquiure