The Austin Chronicle

Fuego Fosters QTPOC Nightlife in Austin

By Charlie Neddo, June 26, 2018, 12:50pm, Qmmunity

TK Tunchez, the self-proclaimed Space Creatress, noticed Austin’s distinct lack of space for queer and trans people of color. But, not one to accept the status quo, Tunchez decided to do what she does best: create space to celebrate under-represented communities.

Since October, she’s been bringing together vendors, DJs, emcees, and artists for Fuego ATX, a monthly QTPOC dance party meets artists' market.

The event, which bar-hops around the city every few months, is intended to offer queer and trans people of color a space to connect with one another and celebrate all that is magical about #qpoclandia. From the well-curated music, occasional cumbia circles, DIY photo booths, and goods sourced mostly by QTPOC artists, Fuego inspires attendees to relax and let loose. Her goal, Tunchez explains, is to make folks feel comfortable. “I want everyone to feel like, 'Hey, come home again every month, have fun, and be yourself.'”

DJ Natalia Rocafuerte of Chulita Vinyl Club agrees with Tunchez, telling “Gay Place” that playing spaces promoting “expression of queerdom” has freed some of the DJ collective to “embrace our queer identity more and more.” Chulita frequently provides the dance party’s soundtrack and, after eight months, Rocafuerte feels Fuego has become a sanctuary for QTPOC communities. For her, as a DJ, she says the party is perfect for “spinning an underground queer anthem” and a place to “wear a rad out-of-this-world outfit ... where everyone encourages you to be your authentic self.” But perhaps more importantly, Tunchez has curated a space that applauds self-expression – especially for younger QTPOC generations. This was especially clear during April's event, which was held earlier in the evening at a restaurant, allowing the party to reach all ages.

But curating this type of feel-good vibe takes work. In fact, part of what fuels Fuego’s intimacy is Tunchez’s behind-the-scenes effort. Each month, she works with her chosen venue to ensure they’re committed to supporting marginalized communities and will make queers and POC folks feel welcome. She’s also adamant about the music, which she believes can make the space feel more inviting and inclusive of POC communities. Latinx, Caribbean, and Afrobeat are just some of the genres attendees can expect to hear whilst shopping, dancing, or just hanging out.

Tunchez selects the DJs including CVC, another regular Chorizo Funk, and See Jane Spin along with artisans like Phag Photos, Bodega Visual, and Beanz and Rice to help generate organic growth for the event. Sourcing queer and POC vendors helps ensure that Fuego is the unicorn at the intersection of Austin’s thriving queer parties and POC events. For Tunchez, promoting and growing the much-sought-after (and rarely found) intersection is the long-term goal. “It feels like every month we are growing community,” Tunchez explains.

There’s no denying that Fuego is, in fact, growing – and expanding beyond Austin. This Thursday, June 28, Tunchez is bringing in San Antonio poet and activist ThickMints, the Regal People out of Houston, and Fuego regular DJ Chorizo Funk, who will be spinning his signature Caribbean and Latinx beats. And, in August, Tunchez is partnering with Keep Austin Queer, an LGBTQ clothing company that vends at Fuego, to throw a Queer Talent Show.

But for now, what better way to close out Pride Month than joining the queer framly on the dance floor and supporting QTPOC artisans, for a magical night of QTPOC community.

Fuego ATX returns to Sahara Lounge this Thursday, June 28, at 9pm. Follow Tunchez’s store Las Ofrend­as on Instagram @lasofrendas.

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