Telenovellas are a medium of storytelling very telling of Latino cultural values. Staying true to classical themes in literature like revenge, love, and rebirth, this genre of television is a staple to Latino culture because its classical narrative themes reflect the classical values of Latino people. What made San Cha’s Telenovella inspired performance at Vibiana for the opening of Redbull Music Festival so brilliant was how she wielded traditional values to empower ideas that don’t conform to tradition but rather represent progress. Passionate romantic love is a value often attached to Latin culture and it was that love that led to San Cha’s symbolic downfall.
Expert and unique curation is the mark of Red Bull Music Festival and this festival-opening show was tailored just for the Latin community with a former Catholic church as a venue and a vibrantly colored, flowery telenovella bedroom set for people to take pictures in the Church’s courtyard.
After enjoying a few palomas at the open bar and eating various Latin Hors d’oeuvres like Spanish octopus and tiny fluatas, I made my way into Vibiana and immediately felt a rush of divinity flow through me. The glory of God shooting out from every crevice of the ivory interior into me. It was the sort of awe that makes you feel small and meaningless in the grand scheme of things but in the most meaningful way. This was the second time I had visited this venue, the first was for Ron Athey’s live memoir Gifts of the Spirit presented by the Broad museum.
The performance was separated into two acts described as such on pamphlets handed out to the audience:
Salvador, a wealthy man of high social standing, notices Dolores, una mujer bella, simple y humilde, working on his estate and he instantly falls in love with her. They wed, but their fairytale love quickly takes a dark turn leaving Dolores depressed and unsatisfied. In her moments of sadness, Dolores is greeted by a divine apparition named Esperanza. What will happen if Salvador finds out?
After hearing Dolores speak to Esperanza. Salvador’s suspicions of an affair build, leading to a quarrel. When things get out of hand, Dolores begins to look for a way out. Esperanza appears once again to help Dolores, and this time Dolores falls madly in love with Esperanza. How will this love triangle end?
Reading into these synopses, you can already see the classical themes and tropes being played with. A man of wealth falling for a simple girl below his class, a love triangle, unrequited love, and divine intervention. The idea underneath the surface of this bisexual and divine love triangle is that if homosexuality isn’t perceived as normal among humans, perhaps it is among gods.
The performance began with San Cha dressed in spring colors, blues and yellows, singing to a rose she picked beside a Greek chorus that harmonized with her. The chorus consisted of a variety of gender bending characters as San Cha has always represented Club Scum, Los Angeles’ premiere gay Latinx/punk promoter.
When San Cha meets Salvador, a man dressed in all black, they fall in love but from the get-go it seemed like a love that must be doomed by something, one too good to be true. Once the two were officially wed and San Cha celebrated her wedding in a ravishing turquoise gown, the audience roared with howls and cheers. San Cha even threw a bouquet for some lucky hombre to catch. The crowd was so elated, one member of the Greek chorus came around pouring tequila into the open mouths of anyone willing to play along and make this feel like a real wedding.
Once meeting this spirit named Esperanza, San Cha’s marriage falls apart and she becomes the victim of Salvador’s abuse. Now divorced and condemned by the church, poor San Cha reclaims her independence and life. Dressed in bright orange, the color of phoenix feathers, San Cha ripped off the bottom of her gown turning it into a short skirt to cement this as a lasting moment of feminine empowerment through art.
Words by: Rob Shepyer
Photos by: Albert Licano