An Evening with Guillermo Gómez-Peña

Guillermo Gómez-Peña ( hosts the best salons I have ever attended. First there is his museum of an art studio apartment perfectly curated with kitsch popular-culture objects revealing the racism in American capitalist consumer culture as well as some whimsy and playful reappropriation. Aunt Jemima dolls, Mexican wrestling action heroes with their masks on, children’s toys, South American religious figures in sexy poses, Marilyn Monroe clocks, black velvet paintings. The living room is a Hollywood set of a Mayan or Aztec ceremonial stage, a faux stone wall with carvings and a huge sun worship dial in the middle. We all sit on comfortable red sofas with an ocean breeze flowing in from a few open windows on a wall of square-pained windows leftover from when the building was an industrial factory. A boxing bag, four desks, a walk-in closet with rows and rows of Guillermo’s outfits that he uses for his performances, or everyday, which is also always a performance. He is on. He is a perfect host, a shaman; he gathers artists and writers and musicians and stirs us together with a bit of his magic which consists partly of inspiring words, loving words, hugs, kisses, intimacy, connection, presence. Be here now. Bring a bottle, there will be tequila, bourbon, rum, wine, pomegranate juice. Guillermo usually in a man-skirt made out of strips of heavy canvas, maybe more like a Roman warrior skirt than a kilt. Black shoes with faux leopard fur tops, tight black leggings, a rock t-shirt, a man-purse, long black hair (to his butt) with streaks of defiant gray, black eyeliner, maybe a touch of lipstick, long feathers for earrings, some bracelets, and of course tattoos. He is stunning and charming. But most importantly, he makes us all feel so welcome, so valued, so loved. We are then so much more free to express ourselves and the conversations circle and flow from GPS devices and how to locate oneself culturally, geographically, complexly, to how one can use white academic privilege to subvert and transform academia from the inside out, to how to navigate borderlands, one of Guillermo’s more significant themes, to a punk band named Ono, fronted by an older African-American man, to a heartbreaking blues song about a young woman who was raped. And of course, we talked about the closing of Esta Noche, a wonderful Latino drag queen club, and what is happening to San Francisco, how the city that took in anyone, of any color, flavor, type, etc. and has become such a desired place because of this diversity, and creativity, is now losing all of that. Yet we left feeling inspired and knowing that the city of Saint Francis will continue in way or another to be a place where people from all over the world can come to reinvent themselves and the world.

Some cultural tips from the evening:
Read Edouard Glissant, (

Listen to 87.9 FM

Listen to Ono ( NOT Yoko Ono, but just Ono