I’ve made it pretty clear that I’m a huge Ricky Martin fan. I’ve been a lover of his music since the longhair days of “Fuego Contra Fuego.” In the early 90’s, I’d rush home to catch him as “Pablo” in Alcanzar una Estrella II, and Sundays I would be glued to the tv waiting for Ricky to make an appearance on Siempre en Domingo.
Years later, the very thought of Ricky’s music takes me back to my pre-teen years of crushes on boys in Secundaria, and the silence that stood between us. Having collected all of his albums and holding “Las Almas del Silencio” as his most artistic effort yet, I couldn’t help but (literally) jump out of bed when a cousin sent a text offering me tickets to Ricky’s MAS concert in San José.
After inviting and coordinating with a few friends, we were on the road from San Francisco to my hometown of San José. On the way, I played a number of Ricky’s songs ranging from “Dime Que Me Quieres,” stopping at the infamous “Livin’ la Vida Loca” crossover days, cruising through his tattooed reggaetón days of LIFE, and landing with the music video for “Lo Mejor de Mi Vida Eres Tú.” I was ready.
Although much of my time thinking and writing about Ricky this past year has been less about his music and more about his coming out and what it means for our communities, I wasn’t expecting anything overtly queer at the concert. Well, except for the sea of brown gay & bi men, of course.
As we arrived at the venue, I was happy to see my fellow jotos and patos representing with fierce rhinestone shirts and enough sharp eyebrows to cut a Luis Miguel fan. What I didn’t expect were the Christian protestors holding up the “Gay Sex is Sin” signs I’m used to seeing at Gay Pride.
I felt terrible thinking I had underestimated Ricky and that the Christians knew him better than I did. Never had I imagined a Ricky Martin concert would be worthy of warnings of a burning Sodom and Gomorra. The Christians did. And they were right.
Ricky’s MAS tour delivered on each letter of its acronym. He brought the música, he gave the alma, and baby, he delivered on the sexo.
I realize this is sacrilegious, but Ricky’s concert was gayer than any of the seven Juan Gabriel concerts I’ve been to. Yes, Juanga prances about, says things like “Si me caigo me cogen,” and has grown mustache-sporting men crying like Sanjaya’s preteen fan on American Idol. However, for all of Juan Gabriel’s beautiful femme fierceness and the lovemaking that goes on between him and his audience, it all remains masked under the clout of the unspeakable.
Ricky, on the other hand, left me speechless when he held one of his male dancer’s head as the dancer slid his hands down Ricky’s thighs. I’ve been gay long enough to know, that there is a gay move. And he didn’t stop there. The electrifying erotically sensual bi-gendered orgy-like performance that took place on a long sofa while he sang “I Am,” was enough to have the gays fanning ourselves and clutching our pearls (pay attention at 0:24 and on):
Still, for those who thought they had room to dismiss the (not-so)subtle sensual man-on-man moments in the concert, Ricky made the queerness explicit. In what reminded me of Madonna’s “Confessions” moment in the Confessions Tour, one of Ricky’s dancers performed solo as his coming out experience was narrated overhead. Beginning with the struggles of growing up with a father who insisted he learn to box and arriving with his libratory moment of discovering his love for dance and his revelation as a gay man. The screaming of the crowd erased all remaining ambiguity: This was a queer Latino concert.
Topping off what was a surprisingly gay and expectedly delicious concert, was Ricky’s encore performance of “Lo Mejor de Mi Vida Eres Tú.” The feel-good song that brought us the queer and different-affirming video, was brought to a close by Ricky offering the following words:
“Lo único que necesitamos en este momento son los mismos derechos para todo el mundo. Lo único que queremos es igualdad, ni más ni menos… I’m talking about equality, ladies and gentlemen, not more, not less, just equality.”
Now all you bitter gays who dismissed Ricky Martin’s coming out as inconsequential and cowardly too late, imagine an arena of Latinas and Latinos, many of whom speak Spanish as their primary (perhaps only) language, applauding an openly gay, culturally rooted and historically present artist delivering words that many queer Latino men like myself could never say to our own families.
Early on, I saw Ricky Martin’s coming out as an important opportunity for queer boys in the U.S. and Latino América who, in their isolation, would now have the opportunity to bear witness to a Latin superstar move openly in his public’s eyes as gay. Months after his coming out, I hailed Ricky’s appearance on the front cover of People en Español’s Father’s Day issue as an important historical moment for our communities. With a readership of 6.4 million people, Ricky, with his two children (Valentino and Matteo) in arms, would be on Supermercado stands and coffee tables across the country.
And yet, it took Christian protestors to make me realize that even I, in all my pro-Ricky arguments, had underestimated just how important he has become. I only hope that in the future I am not blindsided by my own limited capacity to imagine what Ricky Martin has in store for the future.
As the poet, Marvin K. White, recently said, “As with Don Lemon, Ricky Martin is one of the few who came out with his ethnicity intact.”
Por esto, y tanto más, Ricky, gracias.
Por esto, y tanto más, Ricky, gracias.