Never heard of drag? Then you must be living under a rock! Read along if you want to learn more about how drag queens became so popular in the Dominican Republic.
Drag queens are the new pop stars since the internet and television phenomenon RuPaul made drag accessible to the general public. Also in the Dominican Republic we notice that drag queens are gaining popularity. This is remarkable, because in a country like the Dominican Republic, it is still generally difficult to be part of the LGBTQIA+ community. So how did drag end up being so popular?
What is Drag?
There is uncertainty about the exact origins of drag. According to some, the term originated in the costume and theater world at the time of Shakespeare where it was only permissible for men to dress up as women on stage. Drag is supposed to be an acronym of dressing up as a girl. Others claim that the term drag has its origins in the late 1800s. Men at that time wore petticoats when they dressed up as women. These would drag on the floor when they walked across the stage. Therefore, it was often referred to as “putting on their drags”.
The modern version of drag, as we know it today, it has a completely different origin. Like many things within the queer community, the story of drag is one of much oppression, discrimination and misunderstanding. Whereas before, men dressing up as women was mainly meant to be comical, from the 1920s on, gay men used drag mainly to get around rules that prohibited them from dancing with a same-sex partner. Publicly, gay men were required to behave hetero normative, so showing you were a homosexual was not allowed. This struck a chord with many. Thanks to drag, they were able to do so anyway, until laws were also created that prohibited men from dressing as women, or women as men, outside the world of theater. Pushing them to be more low-key or more underground. This led to a real confrontation known as the Stonewall riots, which is at the origin of the Pride parades today.
Gradually, drag gained a new identity and became more popular. More and more people considered drag a real art form and pure entertainment. This is the drag that can be seen on television worldwide today.
Drag in the Dominican Republic
In the Dominican Republic the art of drag also has a rich history, dating back to the 80s. Drag was mainly used to express dissatisfaction with society and leadership. As in many of the countries in Latin America, queer people have no rights in the Dominican Republic. There is no official recognition for a same-sex couple, and a trans person may not officially change his/her gender or name. Drag was a great way to transform discontent into a message through art.
Today, drag is found throughout the country and it’s mostly about people showing their talent for makeup transformations, lip-syncs, dancing, comedy, and so on… Drag queens can be found in bars, queer events, voguing and ballroom competitions and more. Some of the names from the Dominican Drag scene are Drag Klembert, Priscilla Sommerg, Guadalupe Tuesday, Lulu McGaffney, Tanya Divou, Nala Klembert, Emely Klembert, Jermahony Dume, Jankatherina McGaffney, Piah C’pieash, Drag Poison, …
Fun fact: in Drag Race España season two, Diamante Merybrown was competing for the title of Spain’s Next Drag Superstar. She is a non-binary drag queen with Dominican roots (born in Santiago de los Caballeros).
Punta Cana Pride
Although the queer community is thriving and already today remains much less behind closed doors, representation is still a major problem. Like I said before, there are no rights for queer people and discrimination is still a big problem in the country. For this reason I was very surprised to learn that Pride is being organized in the Dominican Republic in cities such as Santo Domingo and Santiago.
In Punta Cana, there was no such thing. Which was more surprising, since it’s the number one tourist city in the Dominican Republic. And many queer people come here on vacation. This has recently changed under the management of Ron Sanford (Mister Gay World 1986). Earlier in July, the first parade was even organized on the beach. A historical moment for Punta Cana!
Ron started organizing his own events in Punta Cana out of necessity because there aren’t many places where LGBTQIA+ could enjoy entertainment without worry. With Punta Cana Pride, he brings an extraordinary program every first Saturday of the month bringing national talent and international talent together on stage.
Next month (on Aug. 6) the Punta Cana Pride program will feature international drag superstar Alexis Mateo alongside national talents Drag Klembert, Priscilla Sommerg, Guadalupe Tuesday and Tanya Divou.