The feminist bar changing Mexico City

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“We don’t leave the political out of our work,” says Libertad García Sanabria leaning forward, the sleeves of her chef’s coat rolled to her elbows. “We are putting our feminism into practice.” She’s on break from prepping the kitchen for the night’s activities. Though right now the bar is mostly empty, upstairs is a workshop for survivors of sexual violence and abuse. Murals on the walls declare this a violence-free space. The triangular-shaped menus teem with vegetarian, locally-sourced entrées like hibiscus tacos and vegetarian pozole. Krudas Cubensi one more time representing womyn and queer people choices, a song chants through the speakers. A painted star glimmers on the door to the non-binary bathroom. I look around me and feel pleasantly, comfortingly at home, wanted and safe. 

Often shortened to “La Gozadera,” Punto Gozadera is a self-declared feminist bar and cultural space. (Gozar, for monolingual English speakers, is a Spanish verb meaning “to enjoy.” In this context, Punto Gozadera, or “the point of enjoyment,” is also a sly reference to a woman’s G-Spot.) Sandwiched between a convenience store and a Catholic church in downtown Mexico City, it’s run by an incredible team of four female-identifying people: Libertad, Pacha’s Wam, Mirna Roldán, and Cynthia Híjar. They met at a party while still in university, and when they were dreaming up a space where gender, activism, and art could intersect, they also knew they needed a way to fund it. The solution? A bar.

When they were dreaming up a space where gender, activism, and art could intersect, they also knew they needed a way to fund it. The solution? A bar.

“We had to learn how to cook, run a space, be administrators and organize and coordinate with other collectives. More or less we’re functioning,” Libertad laughs. She’s being humble: in the year and a half since Punto Gozadera opened its doors, the space has been teeming with activity, from theatre performances to herbology workshops, from queer/cuir (cuir is the Spanish transliteration of queer, and I’ll be using both) cinema and independent feminist film festivals, to Vogue dance classes for trans women, from aphrodisiac ritual parties, Lesbiernes (“Lesbian Fridays”), and workshops on female ejaculation, to punk shows, self-defense classes, book releases, bazaars, lectures, art exhibitions, and poetry classes. The only filters for an event at Punto Gozadera are that it handles feminist and gender issues in some way. “There are a lot of spaces that accommodate other people,” says Libertad, “but for people who express themselves like this, there really isn’t anything like it.”

For Punto Gozadera, feminism isn’t just about theory and dialogue. The state of affairs for women and the LGBTQIA+ community in Mexico is certainly a factor. According to the Observatorio Ciudadano Nacional del Feminicidio (OCNF), 7 women in Mexico are murdered every day. From 2012 to 2013, 3,892 women were reported as killed, their bodies showing signs of torture, physical and/or sexual violence. In addition, 63% of the majority of women from the age of 15 have reported themselves as victims of sexual abuse and assault, while Transgender Europe reports the murders of 229 transgendered people between 2008 and 2014, making Mexico one of the deadliest places in the world for the trans population.

Punto Gozadera has been an active voice of solidarity in local, nationwide, and continental protests, organizing marches for days like the International Day of Ending Violence Against Women (November 25) and the #niunamenos marches on June 3, 2015, to protest the rising rates of femicides in Central and South America. But they don’t just march and organize for cis women. Punto Gozadera’s involvement in protesting the brutal murder of sex worker and trans woman Paola on September 30, 2016 has strengthened its relationship with the trans community. With the mountain of proposals and the high numbers of attendance at events, it’s clear that female-identifying and queer/cuir people not only want, but need, just such a space.

Punto Gozadera’s involvement in protesting the murder of sex worker and trans woman Paola has strengthened its relationship with the trans community.

Of course, as with all worthy endeavors, there has been some pushback. Online forums, Facebook debates, critical articles, and even the refusals of other feminist collectives to collaborate have risen due to Punto Gozadera’s strong stances. “I believe that in the public space, there are many women and people who don’t call themselves feminists,” Libertad postulates. “In their personal lives, yes, but in their public lives, no. And so when we opened a feminist space, we got attacked. There were many ruptures.” One criticism is that the approach is too academic, too inaccessible for all women; another is Punto Gozadera’s firm denial of entry to men on lesbian, trans, and feminist nights. Another is the declaration of gender identity at all – many wonder why Punto Gozadera wants to dwell on gender, instead of moving beyond its limitations.

Nevertheless, the four coordinators of Punto Gozadera have big dreams. They have practical goals – to keep paying rent, to make the space self-sustaining – but they also want to start their own organic garden and create an artist residency program. “I just hope it keeps working,” laughs Pacha’s. They’re going to start a crowdfunding campaign in the next month, which they hope will bring much-needed financial support to start accomplishing some of these goals.

Spaces for women, both cis and trans, face constant erasure, and as a result, so do we.

I hope it keeps working, too. I first moved to Mexico City in September, after I’d finally come out as queer to my Catholic family and right before the U.S. presidential debates between Trump and Hillary Clinton began. Punto Gozadera made this enormous city feel like home to me, and it made my full existence here feel possible in a way I don’t often experience. Queer/cuir, all-female spaces often struggle to survive in this world. There are increasingly fewer spaces where both cis and non-cis women can be visible at any time of day. We are instead given “nights:” Dyke Nights, Tuezgayz, TGirl Nights, Feminist Coalition Meetings at the Lutheran Church on Broad Street, 7:30 PM, Potluck Style. I am so grateful for those nights; those nights matter; those nights are where I’ve met some of my closest friends and collaborators and partners. But we are not given spaces. We are not encouraged to be visible.

Spaces for women, both cis and trans, face constant erasure, and as a result, so do we. Whatever the criticisms or the hang-ups, Punto Gozadera is doing important work. Nothing  comes close to how it feels entering a space that beckons for us to come closer, exists for our purposes, celebrates our bodies, and isn’t afraid to be on our side.