Functions is our new interview series profiling parties from across the world. This week: Mexico City's Pervert
From abandoned women’s jails, old power plants, unused theatres, to uninhabited houses with no floors — Mexican promoters Pervert consider it a challenge to throw raves in the most unlikely of spaces. Transforming dilapidated structures into queer paradises, pervert create seventh heaven for some of the most marginalised people in Mexico — expect immersive set design, dark rooms and raucous techno sets that go on all day and all night.
Always switching locations to reflect the changing nature of life, Pervert throw their large scale parties once a month - heading to spots suggested by their members. Operating a policy of keeping their party as accessible as possible - the prices are always low and the quality high.
“Homophobia is really culturally ingrained over here, a lot of places aren't safe,” co-founder Alberto tells me. Alberto Herbel and his partner Robin Garcia started the party in April 2017 and have not looked back since. Pervert is heralded as a great safe space for queer, trans, non-binary, and marginalised people from all around Mexico — they acknowledge their role as a political movement as well as a rave. “This space is open for anyone to find refuge in, whether you’re a refugee, a trans woman, or disabled - no matter who you are and how far society doesn’t facilitate you, we will find a space for you here”.
The pair pride themselves in building cross-country communities that champion art, talent, diversity and creativity - all while focusing on the body, queerness and embracing nature and nudity. The party is for making memories and for having fun, they welcome guests no matter how they present themselves — as long as they like techno and a good time. Unshaven men and women, unapologetic party hooligans, drag queens, performance artists, lovers and gender-defying ravers— some of whom feel no need to wear clothing, all make up the Pervert crowd. Monthly, these people gather in wild locations and dance the night away.
We sat down with co-founder Alberto Herbel, who told us all about the party, the techno, the talent and the locations of Pervert.
How has Pervert’s journey been so far?
Pervert is obviously not the only party, or queer party, in Mexico. There’s a growing electronic music scene and Mexico City is a huge place and there’s every type of music imaginable here. The party has been growing steadily since 2017, and we have been having hundreds of people come who have found us through social media and word of mouth. But in 2018 featured in Out magazine - a very prominent LGBTQI+ magazine in the US. Ever since that feature, our popularity has soared. This feature helped lots of Central and South American queer communities join us who may not have known about us before and now most of our parties bring in 1000 people, sometimes more.
Where did the name "Pervert" come from?
Full credit goes to my partner. He's in charge of the creative side of things, when he came to me and proposed to start a party he was very clear that he wanted it to be called “Pervert.” It just felt right, there was never any other competition. The name came from the Pervert Lounge in downtown Mexico City, a now-closed venue that pushed the electronic music scene here back in the late 80s and 90s. It knew its role as not just a venue but as a hub for a political movement, and that is something we are inspired by. So the name comes in part because of that venue.
Also if you're brave enough to go to a party which is called "Pervert," you deserve to be here. It shows you don't care about what people think and you can make space for people who need it in a country where there is a lot of homophobia, transphobia and other similar problems.
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How are the parties normally structured?
So most of the time, parties start at 10:PM and go on until around 9:AM the next morning. However, we have four important dates in the Pervert calendar — one is my birthday in February, the next is the birthday of my partner and the anniversary of the party which is in April, the next is pride, and the last is Halloween. We always have at least three stages for these parties so there’s a lot going on. As well as Mexico City parties, which normally happen around once a month, we also host parties in Guadalajara - another large Mexican city. Every two months there’s a party there, and we also host a camping festival-style event. Once a year or so we go to Morelos and have an event from Friday to Monday.
In what ways does your party provide alternative space for a hetero-normative clubbing landscape in Mexico?
In Mexico, homophobia is ingrained everywhere and being straight is the norm. For entry into most “normal” clubs, if you’re a man then you need to have a girl on your side and that’s just the done thing in the culture over here. But here, there are no rules or expectations at all. Everyone who stands up for respect and everyone who stands up for those of us who need to be stood up for is welcome. We welcome allies just as much as queer people, and we want this space to be used to break these traditions which have made clubbing hard for people who don’t always fit. The people make it safe, and the people create the new safe haven, we simply provide a space. In our five years, we’ve never had a fight break out at our parties. Everyone is here to dance and to love each other.
Your website states that “the best music in Mexico City” comes from your turntables — a lofty claim.
I wrote that line, and I honestly believe it! In this big city, you will find every type of music and entertainment you can think of - a lot of it is Latin focused, such as reggaeton, etc. But there isn’t as much techno and other forms of electronic music that originate from outside of Latin America, so we want to make space for this type of music, such as techno and some house music. The objective is to bring the latest music played in world-renowned clubs and to bring the music that is being played on Mexican turntables, and to make this mix. We only really play techno, some house and sometimes disco but actually, we mostly play techno.
Who are your resident DJs and which non-resident DJs have played at your events recently?
We always book some local Mexican DJs, and we have some resident DJs. Of our resident DJs, most of them are women - and many of them are not straight - but not all are from Mexico! One of our resident DJs is from Berlin.
Our resident DJs are MASCHA, Villaseñor, Calmaxx, Celice, Erika Mena, Lupone, Mystery Affair, sadgal and Ursula Prawn. They all play a mix of music and are very talented selectors. Recently we have had DJs Anetha and Xiorro play at our party. We have also had Cruz De Cal, a great Mexican DJ, She Bangs Bondage, Vongold and more.
How do you centre Mexican talent in your parties in the DJ line-ups and with performers?
We love our performers and dancers - and we make sure that the performers that we have to love the party and would come and dance here anyway even if they were not here as a performer. We want them to love the party, our dancefloors, and our ethos is the same we want everyone to share our values. We want to support our performers financially, especially if they are a trans woman, indigenous woman or any other very marginalised type of person as we know that they may find it more difficult to find dance and arts-based work elsewhere, and we want them to know that Pervert supports them and Pervert just wants them to have fun.
For DJs, it’s definitely about talent. Lots of Mexican DJs are very talented and they don’t just DJ, they also produce. We keep an eye out for some of the best talents. We’ve been operating for five years, and we know that a lot of people know us and that other countries know about us. The DJs that play here, a lot of the ones we select are Mexican, we make sure we promote them so that they get opportunities to play in other countries.
You often host parties in crazy locations! How do you pick these locations?
We pay towards culture. If you’re part of our community, and you recommend or show space, or put your own space up for us to use - we pay you for the tip and pay the venue to use it. We have a scouter on our team, who is also an Uber driver! So he knows all the best spots. If he sees somewhere that works, then we get in contact and see if they’ll let us host a party there. For abandoned places that have no regulation, we have an architect come and they do safety checks to make sure the building is safe and strong enough so our guests don’t get hurt.
But the truth is, finding these venues and negotiating is the hardest part of the job. Not many places are happy with a party, let alone a queer party... let alone one with nudity and sex acts. We have five spaces that always open their doors for us: one is called ‘Ex Carcel de Mujeres' and the others are all abandoned locations, but we never like having the party at the same venue multiple times in a row. Past events have taken place at Plaza Mesones and the Crisanta Cervecería Garage - but the new ones will always be a surprise. We like our guests to feel different energy everywhere we go and to mix their energy with a new place, it reflects the changing world.
Pervert Party prides itself in being accessible, how do you do that?
We keep the cost low, and it has been the same since 2017. Our tickets remain at the equivalent of around £6 and our drinks are around £2 or £3 because we know that many members of our community need to pay for other things. It also means that everyone is equal at our party because we try and make sure everyone can come, so someone working many hours and who is very poor can be dancing with a millionaire. Everyone also takes off their clothes, so you can’t even differentiate who has money and what traits people may have - everyone is like ants, there’s no difference between us! Mexico has a lot of classism, where material goods and wealth is very important... but here that doesn’t matter either.
Pervert is more than just music, it is also about pleasure - what does that mean?
The party welcomes all sorts of pleasures, as we want people to feel good about themselves and want them to have pleasurable experiences if that is what they wish. We are open with nudity and sexual practices, there’s always a dark room. For people who are horny or who want to engage in sexual activity - we provide everything. From bathrooms to dark rooms at venues, we make sure we facilitate the needs.
How do you ensure the space is sex-positive and that guests can have safe encounters?
Safety is our priority! We provide everything from condoms, to correct information about where to find anyone if you need help, to lubes, and we even ensure that when someone gets an HIV diagnosis, the party has people to help them navigate the healthcare system and get the right help. We don’t discriminate and try and make the environment as fun as possible. We also host talks about issues important to our community, such as the prevalence of meth within the queer community, access to adequate health services, ingrained homophobia and transphobia etcetera. These are community and networking events. Outside of Pervert, I was previously working for the Ministry of Health as a sexual health expert. Having this party has allowed me to connect with many people within the community and to be able to use my knowledge to help people who may need it.
Art installations, exhibitions and sculptures are all very central to your party, how do you go about that?
Local artists are always championed, and sculpture and erotic art installations are key to our event. We use their pieces throughout the party as it adds a lovely visual effect to the scene. The art matches the venue and if there is a theme of the party then the art accompanies it. These are also always queer artists that we select - their work has to align with our values and their work has to champion the community in the same way that the party does. So we pay the artists for their pieces, however, they still own the pieces and we just promote it and use the artwork at our parties. But they own the art itself.
How do you select which artists and sculptors to work with?
As I said, they have to have similar values to us and be a good fit for Pervert. We often put open calls out on social media, and we say that this is a paid opportunity for artists. We select people who put themselves out there, we do have a resident artist Juanjo Sainz - but now we also use artwork from other people too.
The world is sadly still ingrained with homophobia and adjacent issues, have you run into any big problems because of it - what happened?
Well for one, we lost our Instagram account. We embrace our natural selves and nudity - and it was really difficult to have to see our party through the eyes of the world. We lost around a 20,000 people strong community on Instagram and only because of homophobia, we never really show any explicit nudity on our Instagram. They even blocked paintings of skin by our artists! It was a shame to lose such a community, but we have restarted and are rebuilding our Instagram. While the numbers were not important, it was just sad to see that the world we built and then put online to share got torn down, because the real world is different to the world we built within our community. We now have a database of everyone who attends the event, we email everyone with information about the party.
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What was the most memorable moment at Pervert?
A memorable event was our second-anniversary party, which was held at a former oil factory. The party was amazing! It started at 10:PM and finished at 6:PM the next day, two and a half thousand people were there and people lost their minds. Crazy location and crazy techno. Well, crazy shit happens at every party, we’re a techno party that encourages crazy things! But the craziest instance was when there was no floor. So we always have an architect come in to do safety checks, and 48 hours before a party in an abandoned factory we were told the floor could not hold the number of people we wanted without cracking. So we removed all the floorboards and the under-layer was kept on. People loved it! The guests were bouncing about and wobbling because the under-layer was very thin, and there was no proper floorboard! It got such a crazy reaction everyone thought it was so funny.
What do you hope to do with the party in the future?
We question this constantly, but the honest answer is to keep it alive. I don’t think Pervert needs to be any bigger necessarily, but the city and our community need us to stay alive. We want to keep the music playing. People have said “why don’t you open a club or anything”, but we don’t want that. This isn’t my job, this is my hobby! I’m not looking for more money, I’m looking to make friendships and to have fun with my people. We do want to improve our weekend-long events! We also want to empower our resident DJs to go outside Mexico, and our main aim at the moment is to get our DJs out of Mexico and even out of the continent, and for them to play in places in Europe. We want everyone to know our talent and we want everyone to know about our party.
Aneesa Ahmed is Mixmag's Digital Intern, follow her on Twitter