The guerrilla women arrived at La Casa de Los Amigos the afternoon of Friday, July 15th and immediately began filmed interviews and discussions about their experiences in the Mexican Dirty War. By the following evening, Saturday at 9PM, most conference participants were ready to relax and enjoy the company of their old friends in a more casual venue. That night, everyone piled into two vans that brought us across the city to El Vicio, or “The Vice,” a performance space and bar where highly acclaimed Mexican artist Astrid Hadad was scheduled to sing.
With about 50-60 chairs arranged around a small stage, El Vicio’s atmosphere was intimate, close, and – once the performance began and a stagehand starting piping fake smoke onto the stage at regular intervals – a bit hazy. A live band sat immediately in front of the audience to the right of the stage, and waitresses served guests at narrow tables in front of their seats.
Astrid Hadad is not just a singer, and neither is she ever referred to as strictly an actress or a comedian. She blends song, dance, satire, and showy costumes to produce a humorously outrageous critique of Mexico’s politics and its sexist culture. Far from being a popular icon or a mainstream figure, Hadad has garnered a following among audiences closer to Mexico’s political and cultural outskirts.
Before Hadad took the stage, a comedian in a conservative, black dress and grey wig opened the show, admonishing audience members for their ‘liberal’ behaviors. To the increasing laughter of onlookers, she picked out individuals from the crowd, demanding to know why they were even attending a performance at a place like El Vicio. When Professor Gomez was called upon and explained her research about the Dirty War, the comedian declared the whole conflict una leyenda urbana or “urban legend” and the audience, including the guerrilla women, burst into laughter. Sadly, the woman’s parody of a conservative political view on the Dirty War all too closely resembles the Mexican government’s official line on the issue: that is, a refusal to acknowledge state violence committed during the period, a refusal that, in some sense, amounts to a denial that the conflict ever occurred.
Hadad’s show opened with a video recording of El Calcetín, a song that comically suggests Mexican machismo culture treats women like socks, or as objects to be disposed of once they’ve been worn out.
Her live performances included Altares de plata pura, in which she sings about the Spanish greed for silver, and the violence Europeans perpetrated against indigenous Latin Americans in order to obtain it. Her costume at first appears to be a temple of silver, but she opens it to reveal a bleeding heart and skeletons.
She also proposes a rethinking of Malinche, the young indigenous woman who served as the translator of Hernan Cortés and thus, according to the popular view, helped Europeans conquer Latin America. The song was titled Yo la mala, yo Malinche.
At the end of her performance, Hadad made a shout-out to the guerrilleras in the audience, and on the way home the women noted with glee that she had not said ex-guerrilleras, but rather referred to them as guerrilla fighters of the present.