Bringing the Pride party to the people

For LGBTQ+ audiences and their allies who may not want to spend all of their Pride weekend on the north side, the arts collective TRQPITECA offers an alternative.

TRQPITECA, formed in 2015, consists of Chicago DJs and producers Natalie Murillo, aka La Spacer, and Jacquelyn Carmen Guerrero, aka CQQCHIFRUIT. Murillo and Guerrero curate nightlife and festival performances that bring together installation art, videos, dance music, and live performances. On June 26, they will host the second Queer Pride celebration at Ping Tom Park, 300 West 19th.

“We want to have two stages,” Murillo says. “We’ll be having a better sound system—not that we had a bad sound system the last time, but [worrying about sound] is my curse—there will be more queer artists performing and DJing.”

TRQPITECA Queer Pride 2022
Sun 6/26, 3-10 PM, Ping Tom Park, 300 W. 19th (near pagoda and playground), chicagoparkdistrict.com, free.

The first Queer Pride celebration at Ping Tom Park took place in 2019, when a storm closed down the Pride Parade on the north side. Pride celebrations across the city were canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic in both 2020 and 2021.

“In 2019, the rain started at about 3:30 or 4 o’clock,” Murillo recalls. “It did go away within 45 minutes, but a lot of people didn’t end up going because of the rain. I’m expecting a bigger turnout, unless there’s some rain.”

Guerrero and Murillo conceived of TRQPITECA as a way to join their disparate musical backgrounds. Murillo, a Chicago native who grew up in Little Village, was steeped in the city’s house culture. Guerrero, who is from Miami, had a repertoire with origins in Cuban and tropical sounds. Their tagline is “the oasis at the crossroads between paradise and the underground.”

They met each other in the worlds “of art and dance,” Guerrero says, at an event where Murillo was doing the music and Guerrero was dancing.

“We DJed at a fundraiser event together and decided that we should do something regularly,” Guerrero says. “We did try something on the north side too, at Logan Square, and it was horrible. We decided that we needed to go where more of our people are.”

They now take pride in bringing diverse sounds to diverse audiences, and don’t want to fall back on current hits or dance staples. 

“We are part of underground artists and communities,” Guerrero says. “But I think it’s important for us to uplift what’s going on through emerging artists and a variety of voices, not just what you hear on the radio or gets lots of the airtime.”

Guerrero credits Murillo with conceiving TRQPITECA’s name. They first combined “tropical” and “discoteca,” with the “-teca” suffix conveniently also evoking techno music. But Guerrero suggested, “Let’s throw a q in it to make it queer.”   

Guerrero started as a DJ because, “I love to dance. I really want to share what moves me with other people and play around. I was part of the Chances Dances collective for years, and they taught me how to DJ.”

Guerrero had numerous inspirations for their repertoire. Initially they were committed to putting forth music by women and queer artists. But as they evolved as a DJ, they noticed a throughline of “diaspora, connecting communities, and connecting music of different geographic regions . . . making relationships between genres and artists through the mixes and the music.”

Murillo collected music on CDs, and says they could flourish as a DJ thanks to the iPod, which allowed their collection to become portable. When a DJ friend gave them an iPod mixer as a high school graduation present they were subsequently invited to play house parties—and on a float for the 2008 Pride Parade.

“They knew the music wasn’t going to skip” on the float, they say. 

Like Guerrero, Murillo focuses on music that has long “brought me lots of joy—house music, dance music, techno, and everything in between. As I kept growing and learning, I realized that music was a universal language. I could play this, connect, and bring some type of joy and release.”

TRQPITECA had two selling points when it originated in January 2015, Murillo says. An early show was in Pilsen, a neighborhood where queer audiences at the time needed more regular entertainment gatherings, while the warmth evoked by Guerrero’s tropical-inflected sounds provided a welcome respite from the harsh Chicago winter. 

Murillo recalls asking themself: “’Why do I have to go north every weekend? What if I want to do something in this neighborhood?’ I knew that there were other creative queers in this area.”    

The founders think of TRQPITECA as “a space where queer artists, and women and nonbinary artists could come together” in ways that have been eschewed by more mainstream LGBTQ+ communities, Guerrero says. Those communities “had not always felt like welcoming places.” 

Murillo recalls the city’s house scene as being a boys’ club: “At first it was like a joke: ‘You’re trying to be a DJ? You’re trying to be an artist? You’re a girl. You can’t do that.’ I would also get the compliment: ‘You’re good for a girl.’”

Even their DJing with an iPod seemingly sparked the bullying. “Older DJs would say, ‘That’s not real DJing. You’re DJing with an iPod. This was all pre-laptop [for DJing], so, looking back on it now, I was really pioneering playing with MP3s and being portable.”

But the bullying inspired Murillo to develop “a hard shell,” they say, noting that they had experienced that misogyny since they began playing music as a child.

“Even being in school band and orchestra, I dealt with that misogyny from boys. They’d say: ‘You’re a percussionist. That’s for boys. You should go play the flute or the violin.’”

Guerrero adds, “I got that a lot as well, even before I started DJing. I started to check out more queer parties, like Chances Dances and things like that. I got off the Boystown strip and decided, I’m not going to subject myself to this.”

They look forward to connecting at Queer Pride with what is likely to be an even broader audience. 

“We do work in nightlife and a lot of the events we do are at night,” Murillo says. “We have met a lot of young people who are under 21, or are people who have children [who want to attend a performance]. . . . We thought that, if this was a free event, and we could compensate all the artists and it would be for all ages, it was definitely something we wanted to do.”   

“I want to allow people the space to dance and be themselves,” Guerrero adds.

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