Naco Libre

Photo: Courtesy of Claire Frisbie

At the latest installment of Fresa Salvaje, at Williamsburg’s gritty-hip East River Bar earlier this month, projections of kitschy Mexican movies and fashion ads played on the walls, and New York City’s Latin expatriate hipster elite pogo-bopped to Spanish-language, nouveau-eighties electropop and vintage rock. The roving party, which means “wild strawberry,” was named after a seventies radio hit by Spanish crooner Camilo Sesto that is to Latinos in their twenties and thirties what, say, Abba’s “Dancing Queen” is to their American peers. It was started a little over a year ago by Williamsburg roommates Dulce Pinzón, 32, and Aldo Sanchez, 27, better known by the fresaístas as D.J. Papichulo.

The duo, who grew up together at private school in the Mexican province of Puebla, wanted to forge a Latin scene unburdened by top-40 cheesiness. “We were so tired of Latino equals Shakira and Ricky Martin and all that crap,” says Pinzón, who has a highly discerning taste for retro-kitsch not unlike that of her Anglo pals with their Dukes of Hazzard belt buckles and eighties exercise wear. It’s just a different set of childhood references and media images she and Sanchez draw from. So Sanchez plays not only Mexican rock and New Wave but also theme songs from old telenovelas known throughout Latin America and camp gems from pop divas like Gloria Trevi, who’s often called the Madonna of Mexico. On Saturday night, the crowd thronged the stage when tiny Maria Daniela, a ditzy-acting chanteuse with a cult following in Mexico, performed her electro redo of Daniela Romo’s 1983 hit “Mentiras.”

Sanchez also plays a lot of cumbias—the folk-dance songs of Colombia that are synonymous throughout Latin America with the hard-drinking, jalopy-tinkering working class—whom the urbane Fresa crowd calls nacos. “It means cheesy, white trash,” explains Pinzón. Adds Sanchez: “Eating tacos on the street, drinking pulque [a cheap liquor], and going to lucha libre [wrestling] matches—that’s all very naco.” Like prep-school kids in trucker caps, the Fresa gang has embraced naco culture with an irony-tinged gleefulness. “There’s a classist implication to the term,” said Oscar Bernal, a D.J. and cuny grad student. “It’s like ghetto fabulous. And it’s fun to play with naco stuff as long as you don’t have to live that life.” At an earlier night of the party, at the Soho haute taquería La Esquina, when the cumbias came on, the crowd pulled the club’s largely Latin-immigrant kitchen staff out onto the floor to dance with them. “It’s just a bunch of Mexican hipsters listening to the songs they grew up on,” said Nuria Net, from Puerto Rico and newly hired by MTV’s new Latino-American channel. “They’re nostalgic.”

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Naco Libre