Navigating the systems that are designed to divide us creates exhaustion. Working to dismantle those systems while simultaneously being oppressed by them creates even more profound stress. The Noche LatinX series was conceived by Laura Malintzin as an antidote. Held monthly in Asheville, the events feature Latinx (the gender-inclusive term for Latino/a) and LGBTQ people on the turntables and on the dance floor.
La Danza del Sur, on Saturday, April 6, at The Mothlight, will be the largest Noche LatinX event to date, with a bigger venue and regional talent. Founded in 2017 at the now-defunct Black Star Brewing in Hendersonville, these radical dance parties have also taken place at Old Shakey’s and Fleetwood’s. The upcoming night will feature Malintzin aka DJ Hijx de la Chingada and fellow Noche LatinX organizer DJ Juan Bounce, as well as DJ Malinalli, who are all from WNC, and Durham’s DJ Gemynii.
“Things have gotten harder for our community,” Malintzin says of her inspiration for Noche LatinX. “There is a lot of need — people who are doing community organizing, people who are stressed, people who are trying to find a place to be after they do all those things — a place to unite with community and dance and have fun.” The unity and joy help fuel those involved in movements for liberation.
With La Danza del Sur, Malintzin, Bounce and their partner Alex Pean are building regional momentum for uplifting artists and activists of color. Based in the Triangle area, DJ Gemynii is an open-format artist who plays house, club beats, Afrobeat, hip-hop and old-school sounds. She also is part of a DJ collective called Conjure — The Celebration of Black & Brown Femmes. By bringing her to Asheville, Malintzin says the goal is to share connections and inspiration across the state, so event attendees can help each other increase reach and impact.
In addition to creating nourishing spaces for organizers, Noche LatinX raises funds for them. A percentage of the proceeds of La Danza del Sur will go to groups dedicated to justice for brown and black people. Specifically, money will be donated to Word on the Street/La Voz de Los Jovenes, an arts magazine created by youths of color; BeLoved Asheville, which provides support and advocacy for immigrants and the homeless; and Southerners on New Ground’s Black Mamas Bail Out Action, a regional movement to raise awareness about the discriminatory nature of cash bail, seeking to eliminate it while freeing black caregivers.
“There are so many definitions of what activism is, and activism can look a lot of different ways,” says Malintzin. As DJs, Malintzin and Bounce use music to cross borders and celebrate intersecting identities. Their activism creates transformative experiences where, as Malintzin explains, Latinx, black, indigenous and LGBTQ people “feel welcome, where they can be themselves, unafraid and unapologetic.”
In a city where few spaces are created by and for queer brown people, Noche LatinX offers both familiarity and cultural expansion. “We sometimes play [Mexican-American singer] Selena,” Bounce shares as an example. “Artists who I used to listen to when my mom was cleaning the house. … It just gives you a feeling of home. … A lot of what we play is new, but some is music that we grew up with, that our parents used to play, that you would hear on the streets in Mexico City. To bring it here to Asheville and to educate people about all different styles of music, especially Latin music, is awesome.”
Malintzin adds, “Music can make you travel, it can take you back into time. There’s present music, there’s future music. That’s what we want to be able to do, to have people there enjoying music that brings them back to the past, to the present and to what’s gonna be in the future.”
With a strong base built by word-of-mouth promotion, Noche LatinX organizers now collaborate with local Mexican artist Luis Martinez on event posters and Manuel Vacero of Mente Visual Films on promo videos. Other collaborators include La Danza del Sur event sponsors En La Calle, PBR, Warren Wilson College and Hola Carolina magazine.
While intentionally designed for those who are pushed to the edges by the dominant culture, Noche Latinx is open to all. “This space is for the Latinx community, it’s for the African-American community, it’s for indigenous people, it’s for brown and black people, wherever they are from,” says Malintzin. “It’s not exclusive, we want everyone to be there. … Anyone else who wants to join us and help us come up is more than welcome to be there.”
It’s no secret that Asheville is experiencing gentrification. Malintzin sees Noche LatinX events as a critical form of resistance to this trend. “If we don’t take a chance right now to reclaim what’s ours and make our voices be heard,” she says, “then in a few months or a few years, there’s not going to be space for us.”
WHAT: La Danza del Sur with DJ Gemynii, DJ Juan Bounce, DJ Hijx de la Chingada and DJ Malinalli
WHERE: The Mothlight, 701 Haywood Road, themothlight.com
WHEN: Saturday, April 6, 9 p.m. $5 advance/$8 at the door