DJ CQQCHiFRUIT Talks Finding Your Community
Written by Vocalo Radio on October 11, 2019
Jacquelyn Carmen Guerrero aka DJ CQQCHIFRUIT is a Chicago-based multidisciplinary artist of Cuban and Puerto Rican descent, originally from Miami, FL.
CQQCHiFRUIT got their start as a DJ by learning from and playing with the Chances Dances collective in 2013, with their first gig at Danny’s Tavern in Chicago. CQQCHiFRUIT’s sound incorporates elements from their Miami roots, Chicago/Midwest residence, and global interest with an emphasis on divas, womxn, and queer artists from around the world. In 2015, along with Chicago producer La Spacer, CQQCHiFRUIT co-founded and became resident DJ of TRQPiTECA, a Chicago-based artist duo and production company creating space for local and international artists working with queer and tropical aesthetics to experiment and thrive.
Jacquelyn Carmen Guerrero is also a multi-disciplinary artist who studies and uncovers the complexities of Caribbean heritage through ornate installations and captivating performance that create spaces for transformation. Their practice centers on the research, rediscovery, and reclamation of the cultural, spiritual, and artistic legacies of their queer, AfroCuban, and Puerto-Rican intersection. This research and reflection is expressed through visual art, music, and performance that combines natural, often tropical elements, and spiritual or magical processes.
The the name “CQQCHiFRUIT” honors divine and feminine creative energy. Guerrero’s artistic practice includes co-organizing an artistic platform and event in Chicago called TRQPITECA, which features artists working with queer and tropical aesthetics.
We caught up with CQQCHiFRUIT to talk queer dance culture, the social impact of artists in Chicago, and feeling supported by your community…
What drew you to Chicago? Where do you live now? Describe your neighborhood.
I moved to Evanston from Miami in 2006 to study Theater and Communication at Northwestern University. I decided to stay in Chicago because I found it very easy to be independent here. You don’t need a car; it’s relatively affordable, and I really wanted to continue experiencing life outside of Miami. I currently live on the border between Little Village and North Lawndale.
My neighborhood is full of big beautiful houses, tree-lined streets, and it’s a melting point between the traditionally Black neighborhood of North Lawndale and the Mexico of the Midwest, which is Little Village. My favorite symbol representing my neighborhood is a mural that says “Breaking Down Barriers.” It has an outline of Africa filled with the colors of the pan-African flag on one side, and the outline of Mexico filled in with the colors and the Eagle of the Mexican flag on the other side. And I really love that as a symbol of the mix of cultures in my neighborhood…
What has it been like growing up/ living in Chicago?
Living in Chicago has been a blessing and also a struggle in its own way. It’s been a blessing because like many other artists that I know, I’ve really developed my practice here. I found a supportive arts community here. People often talk about moving to L.A. or New York to make it and I think Chicago really challenges this notion because there are so many people making brilliant work here.
I feel that I’ve come into a deeper understanding of myself and others within and outside of my community through my work here. I love the people here and my community that grows larger every day. I love the landscape, the lake, the beautiful seasons, although winter could be a little shorter. I love the music scene in Chicago. I’ve been initiated into the tradition of House music here and all of the genres that have blossomed out of House music over time.
Talk about how you got into DJ’ing and the work that you do with the TRQPITECA collective…
I got into DJing because I really love dancing. After I moved to Chicago, I began exploring the queer nightlife scene outside of the mainstream gay bars and clubs in Boystown. One of my favorite parties was Chances Dances. Their mission was to create safe spaces for all gender expressions. They made monthly mix CDs that you could get at the party or listen to online, and I became a super fan. I would go to all the parties, listen to the mix CDs, and eventually, because of my work performing and hosting other parties, I was invited to become part of the collective. They then offered to teach me how to DJ around 2012-2013.
And then, shortly after that, I met my future partner, Natalie aka La Spacer, and in January 2014 we launched TRQPITECA. It was born out of a combination of me really missing Miami and the tropical sounds and lifestyle of the city, and Natalie pointing out that there were no House or Techno events in our neighborhood that specifically work with queer artists. So TRQPITECA became both a DJ duo and a cultural platform for artists working with queer and tropical aesthetics, with House and Techno music as our foundation.
At the end of the day, what would you like to give back to the community?
In addition to the work that I do with TRQPITECA, which is mostly organizing around music, I am a visual and performance artist. My artwork investigates spirituality and aesthetics within my intersection of Caribbean heritage and queer identity. I would say the work that I’m most known for is called Glitter Beach. It’s a huge tapestry of deconstructed sequin garments. I also do embroidery so my work would look like very glittery shiny work with sequins that also uses other textiles like leather to weave together this visual narrative. I use those as a backdrop to perform my own original music and dance movements.
I’ve really blossomed into who I am here in Chicago and my artwork has taken a turn from theatre to an expansive practice of visual art, performance and music to accompany the performance. I felt very supported here as a DJ and an artist. There are so many organizations, both independent and institutional organizations, that are just eager to uplift and work with artists… especially artists that are looking to make a social impact with their work. It has really left an impact on me, I’m not only thinking about me and what I want to gain personally, I’m also thinking about my community and what the broader impact of my work is.
I think that’s a part of the work that my partner and I do with TRQPITECA, we’ve been a platform for so many artists, we’ve worked with over 250 artists in the time that we’ve existed, providing a platform and an economic opportunity for artists. I think that it’s really important and I try to use my platform to extend the same courtesy and love and support that Chicago has offered to me.
Interview Edited for Length & Clarity by Seamus Doheny
Shot by Paul Araki Elliot