The Queer Nuyorican
Racialized Sexualities and Aesthetics in Loisaida
Performance and American Cultures
Published by: NYU Press
224 pages, 152.00 x 229.00 mm, 19 b/w illustrations
- ISBN: 9781479808298
- Published: June 2021
A queer genealogy of the famous performance space and the nuyorican aesthetic
One could easily overlook the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, a small, unassuming performance venue on New York City’s Lower East Side. Yet the space once hosted the likes of Victor Hernández Cruz, Allen Ginsberg, and Amiri Baraka and is widely credited as the homespace for the emergent nuyorican literary and aesthetic movement of the 1990s. Founded by a group of counterculturalist Puerto Rican immigrants and artists in the 1970s, the space slowly transformed the Puerto Rican ethnic and cultural associations of the epithet “Nuyorican,” as the Cafe developed into a central hub for an artistic movement encompassing queer, trans, and diasporic performance.
The Queer Nuyorican is the first queer genealogy and critical study of the historical, political, and cultural conditions under which the term “Nuyorican” shifted from a raced/ethnic identity marker to “nuyorican,” an aesthetic practice. The nuyorican aesthetic recognizes and includes queer poets and performers of color whose writing and performance build upon the politics inherent in the Cafe’s founding. Initially situated within the Cafe’s physical space and countercultural discursive history, the nuyorican aesthetic extends beyond these gendered and ethnic boundaries, broadening the ethnic marker Nuyorican to include queer, trans, and diasporic performance modalities.
Hip-hop studies, alongside critical race, queer, literary, and performance theories, are used to document the interventions made by queer and trans artists of color—Miguel Piñero, Regie Cabico, Glam Slam participants, and Ellison Glenn/Black Cracker—whose works demonstrate how the Nuyorican Poets Cafe has operated as a queer space since its founding. In focusing on artists who began their careers as spoken word artists and slam poets at the Cafe, The Queer Nuyorican examines queer modes of circulation that are tethered to the increasing visibility, commodification, and normalization of spoken word, slam poetry, and hip-hop theater in the United States and abroad.
A thrilling meditation on the seldom-acknowledged wild and wily ways artists of color in the 1990s and 2000s queered Nuyorican poetic performance by astutely reconnecting with its corporeally fluid founding aesthetics. Karen Jaime’s The Queer Nuyorican is a timely and seductive invitation to explore nuyorican aesthetics as an inclusive, mobile, inspiringly contentious Open Room. ~Arnaldo Cruz-Malavé, author of Queer Latino Testimonio, Keith Haring, and Juanito Xtravaganza: Hard Tails
Karen Jaime’s assessment of the aesthetics cultivated and mobilized at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe takes a groundbreaking turn to render queer contributions as central to the artistic, cultural, and political legacy and future of this beloved institution. Bringing to light previously unexamined archival materials and offering a proximity of analysis only possible from the vantage point of a creative participant in the scene, Karen Jaime allows us to discover the Nuyorican anew. This intimate and rigorous volume will shape all future scholarship on the Cafe and the nuyorican aesthetic. ~Ramón H. Rivera-Servera, Dean of the College of Fine Arts at the University of Texas at Austin